Dragons break 14-year Raiders hoodoo: photos

Dragons 34 Raiders 16

After 14 long years driving down the Hume Highway and coming back with nothing, the Dragons finally lifted their Canberra curse with a Brett Morris hat-trick propelling them to a 34-16 win over the Raiders at GIO Stadium. 

Stand-in skipper Morris scored the Dragons' first two tries and put the match beyond doubt with a magnificent acrobatic effort with four minutes to play as the Dragons finally banished their Canberra hoodoo and kept their slim finals hopes alive.

Wing partner Jason Nightingale also notched a double in the win, overshadowing right edge partner Josh Dugan on his return to Canberra.

Dugan was booed every time he touched the ball, particularly after being crunched by Jarrod Croker and Edrick Lee on his first touch, but the NSW Origin star had the last laugh scoring a crucial try in the second half as the Dragons trailed 16-10.

Dugan's try proved the momentum shifter as the Dragons went on to score the final three tries of the match to seal the crucial win.  

It was a tough start for new No 1 Gerard Beale in the jersey he had coveted on his move from Brisbane last year. A miscommunication fielding a Josh McCrone bomb saw the ball fall into the hands of Jarrod Croker 10 metres out from the Dragons line.

The Raiders made the Dragons pay two rucks later when Glen Buttris turned Josh Papalii inside from five metres out for the first try of the match for a 6-0 lead after just three minutes.

The lead was short-lived after the Dragons hit straight back when stand-in skipper Brett Morris caught the Raiders napping on a short blindside. Gareth Widdop hit the upright with his sideline conversion attempt to leave the score at 6-4.

The Dragons had cause for concern in the ninth minute when Widdop stayed down after being crunched by Raiders hit-man Joel Thompson but the Englishman got to his feet after a brief stoppage.

After withstanding the early Raiders onslaught the Dragons took the lead after some deft hands from Widdop and Beale allowed Morris to score his second in the 19th minute.

Widdop made no mistake with his second conversion attempt, slotting the goal to give the Dragons a 10-6 lead.

The Raiders looked to have re-taken the lead in the 25th minute when Paul Vaughan steam-rolled Mike Cooper on a barnstorming run to the line. Referee Adam Devcich sent the try upstairs with replays showing that Vaughan was denied by a desperate hand from Mitch Rein.

The home side wouldn't be denied seven minutes later when Raiders livewire Anthony Milford split the Dragons through the middle and found Jordan Rapana supporting on the inside for the finish next to the posts to re-take the lead at 12-10; a lead they held until halftime.

The Dragons failed to complete for first set in the second-half with Beale spilling an offload from Tyson Frizell inside their own half allowing Croker to score from the ensuing set and extend the Raiders lead to 16-10.

The Dragons were given the ideal chance to hit back when Edwards again felled Widdop after a kick and much to the home fans chagrin it was Dugan who scored in the right hand corner after Widdop caught the Raiders short with an angled cross-field run.

Widdop's conversion attempt was waved away giving the Raiders a narrow two-point lead with 29 minutes to play.

The Dragons kicked ahead when Benji Marshall and Widdop combined on the left edge for Peter Mata'utia score. Widdop's tough day off the tee continued with his fourth sideline conversion of the afternoon waved away to keep the match on a knife edge at 18-16. 

Jason Nightingale extended the lead in the 64th minute when he leaped above Lee to pull down a pinpoint kick from Marshall with Widdop finally finding his range to give the Dragons an eight-point buffer at 24-16.

Dugan went close to scoring his second with seven minutes remaining but was denied by video referee Steve Chiddy after replays showed he had lost control of the ball under attention from Lee. 

Morris's outstanding finish with four minutes to play put the game beyond doubt at 30-16 before Nightingale's second sealed the match.


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