Canberra hold off Dragons to extend hoodoo
The man in the No 1 jumper was destined to steal the show but St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan couldn't end the NRL's most extraordinary hoodoo as Canberra ran out 22-18 winners at WIN Stadium on Saturday night.
Instead it was rookie Canberra custodian Anthony Milford, who only achieved a regular place in the top grade line-up after Dugan was sacked by the club, who was the star - a spectacular second-half try only telling part of his heroics.
Milford was put under extraordinary pressure under the high ball throughout the contest, with Dugan often the man he was forced to beat to the ball.
His final bomb detonation ended with Dugan on the sidelines after he was floored by some friendly fire, the NSW Origin fullback only able to look on as the Dragons continued a horrid run which has seen them win only one of their past 17 games against Canberra.
Dugan was seen as the man to end the hoodoo, but his replacement in the Raiders No.1 was up to the challenge.
"For a young kid to be tested like that tonight, the NSW fullback coming down on him all night, I thought he handled himself well," Raiders skipper Terry Campese said.
"He's mature for his age, he put our team in a lot of good positions ... I reckon it was a big step forward for the young fella."
Asked about the hoodoo - the Dragons' last win coming way back in 2007 - Campese said:
"I think it worried them more than us.
"A few put it on Twitter 'Today the hoodoo's gone'. I love reading that."
Two tries either side of halftime killed the Dragons, who were unable to repeat their heroics from Monday night when they scored three late tries to stun competition leaders South Sydney.
It seemed a case of deja vu when Brett Morris touched down on an Adam Quinlan grubber eight minutes from time to bring the home side within four points, but there was no encore with the loss dashing their slim finals hopes.
The Dragons looked to be heading to the sheds at 6-all before a long Milford bust turned into a Reece Robinson try a minute before the break, while some soft marker defence gifted Shaun Berrigan a try two minutes after the restart.
The Dragons got close again when Bronson Harrison crossed before Milford danced around five players to put his side ahead 22-12 just after the hour mark.
"It's getting that way," skipper Ben Creagh said when asked if he believed in hoodoos.
"It's been going a long time. But it comes back to how we respond to our errors and penalties and we just seem to let in soft tries after those errors and it's just killing us."
Canberra Raiders 22 (S Berrigan J Edwards A Milford R Robinson tries J Croker 3 goals) St George Illawarra Dragons 18 (B Harrison B Morris J Stockwell tries C Stanley 3 goals) at WIN Stadium. Referee: Alan Shortall, Chris James. Crowd: 12,072