Canberra Raiders overcome St George Illawarra Dragons in NRL thriller
Canberra's faint finals hopes are alive after a thrilling golden-point NRL victory over St George Illawarra ended their abysmal run in tight finishes.
In a dour affair, the Raiders ran out 18-14 winners in front of 10,977 fans at GIO Stadium on Friday night.
A 40-20 kick from Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer in extra time set up the victory with Elliott Whitehead crossing for the match-winning try from a Dave Taylor pass.
The win snapped the Green Machine's four-game losing streak and prevented a fourth golden point defeat of the season.
"It's been a real struggle getting these boys up after the way we lost to Penrith," Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said.
"The last three or four weeks it's been really, really hard. A real big job.
"Luck plays a massive role in golden point. It just hasn't been rolling our way at times."
Both teams have injury concerns out of the match and Raiders forward Josh Papalii could face a suspension for a shoulder charge.
Dragons forward Russell Packer left the field early with a suspected hip injury and couldn't return despite a pain-killing injection.
Raiders bench forward Luke Bateman will be assessed for a broken cheekbone after a head clash with Kurt Mann who returned after the incident.
A knee injury ended Canberra prop Shannon Boyd's night.
Papalii was lucky not have been sent to the sin bin for a heavy shoulder charge on Josh Dugan which ended the former Raider's night.
With Dugan being helped from the ground, Sezer intercepted a Gareth Widdop pass and ran almost the length of the field to score a brilliant solo try on the hour mark.
Canberra captain Jarrod Croker adding the extra points to make it 12-12.
Croker put the Raiders in front with a little more than 15 minutes remaining, slotting a penalty goal from 29m out on a tough angle.
Then Widdop levelled the scores at 14-14 with his second penalty goal five minutes later to set up a dramatic finish.
But the Dragons skipper missed two field goal attempts in the dying minutes, while Sezer and Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin were also astray with their efforts to secure a one-pointer.
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor was happy with his side's performance, despite the cruel result.
"I thought it was a really big step forward on how we've been playing to how we've played tonight," McGregor said.
"If we play like that we win most of our games throughout the rest of the year."
Canberra Raiders 18 (Nikola Cotric, Aidan Sezer, Elliot Whitehead tries; Jarod Croker 3 goals) St George Illawarra Dragons 14 (Jason Nightingale, Gareth Widdop tries; Widdop 3 goals) in extra time at GIO Stadium. Referee: Chris Sutton, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 10,977