Bottom-placed Gold Coast faces Manly after the Raiders pip St George Illawarra 24-22 at Canberra Stadium.
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Titans vs Sea Eagles
Raiders hold off Dragons
Canberra can dream of finals for at least another week after seeing off St George Illawarra 24-22 in a tense affair to keep pace with the top eight.
With suspended coach Ricky Stuart watching from home, the Raiders rattled off three straight tries after trailing in the first half, but had to hold on against the fast-finishing Dragons at Canberra Stadium.
Dragons’ five-eighth Talatau Amone completed his first career hat-trick on 68 minutes to pull his side back within six points, before assisting Tautau Moga to lift them to within two points just five minutes from time.
But Zac Lomax pushed his conversion attempt from the sideline wide, allowing the Raiders to hold on.
They will end round 22 still just one match back from the eighth-placed Sydney Roosters with three rounds before the finals, but given their lackluster points difference they could only afford one Roosters’ win if they are to leapfrog them into the eight.
The Raiders at least nailed the first piece of the assignment in rainy conditions, with coaches Brett White, Andrew McFadden and Mick Crawley guiding the side to victory to end the club’s week of negative headlines in the best way possible.
Young fullback Xavier Savage had his fingerprints all over the win with two try assists, including a sweet grubber that allowed winger Albert Hopoate to score, while also running for 158 meters.
With star prop Joe Tapine missing with a rib injury, the Raiders’ forwards shared the load in covering his hulking presence. They were led by Josh Papalii (140m), Ryan Sutton (110m) and Hudson Young (67m), who scored the opening try of the match from a Zac Woolford grubber.
The loss removes the Dragons’ already-slim finals chances entirely, now having won just one of their past six matches in a disappointing end to their year.
They had hit the front in the first half as Amone twice capitalized on soft Canberra defensive efforts to score tries, but could not stay with the Raiders when their intensity lifted.
Canberra prop Ryan Sutton grabbed his side an 18-12 half-time lead after gathering his own charge-down effort to score, while Savage’s smart kick for Hopoate pinched a 12-point break.
Amone was clearly the Dragons’ best, finding seven tackle busts and an offload to go with three tries and an assist.