Deja vu drama as Dragons turned down chance to take Raiders to golden point with last-second call

Canberra stayed in contention for the NRL finals, withstanding a Junior Amone hat-trick and needing a late help from the referee to win 24-22 at GIO Stadium.

St George Illawarra were left furious, however, after a late Canberra hold-off allowed time to run out when the lead was just two points and the Dragons could have struck on goal.

Corey Harawira-Naera clearly laid on Max Feagai as he looked to play the ball before the referee blew. It was as clear as a set restart, and almost certainly a professional foul that would have seen Harawira-Naera sent to the trash and Zac Lomax taken a shot at the posts directly ahead.

Amazingly, the same thing happened the last time these two met, with Canberra screaming for a penalty as Ben Hunt was in the ruck.

“It’s almost identical,” said commentator Brenton Speed. “Round 16 upside down again. The Dragons wonder ‘Where is our penalty?’ that the Raiders haven’t entered Wollongong, but Adam Gee says it’s full-time.

The Raiders were missing manager Ricky Stuart, banned after his outburst at the press conference following last week’s loss to Penrith, but were able to get the job done, albeit unconvincingly.

It wasn’t a vintage performance either way, but both points are cashed in and Canberra will move on.

Elliott Whitehead could be sweating this week after a first-half incident saw him press charges for an alleged hip drop on Blake Lawrie, while Jack Wighton appears to be suffering from a knee problem late on.

The Dragons are now mathematically out of contention for the final, but can be proud of the way they fought back after being seemingly dead and buried for a chance. Their performance, especially that of hat-trick hero Junior Amone, was worth more than they had.

Canberra were given a gift to start the game after a ranged error from Jack Bird, and capitalized with Zac Woolford kicking for Hudson Young to score.

Despite the Raiders’ early try, it was St George Illawarra who were the strongest early on. They fought back smartly thanks to Amone’s dart on the line and moved past in the 20e minute as the five-eights competed hardest for a ball on deck near the line.

The momentum was only going one way, but Albert Hopoate was able to move it almost single-handedly.

The Dragons had pressed down the line but the winger managed to break through and charge down the wing, from which his side forced a restart and, once in position, Xavier Savage showed deft hands to push through Jordan Rapana.

Then, as the clock ticked into the half, Ryan Sutton produced a play of pure effort to charge Hunt’s kick, chase the ball and score a well-deserved try.

The second half started horribly for the Dragons. The kick-off was complete and within 90 seconds Savage got a second assist after a smart kick for Albert Hopoate.

As so often happens, Hunt brought St George Illawarra to life. He threw a 20/40 – after throwing a 40/20 in the first half – to get them out of their end, and once in position Amone was able to complete his hat trick to bring the deficit back to six points.

The Raiders then denied the chance to score a single basket that would have required the Dragons to score twice, and were given a very shaky finish after Tautau Moga leaped up to hit the corner. Lomax missed the chance to even the scores from the touchline.

The Dragons managed to get into position through a huge break from Feagai – but he was deemed to have struck as Harawaera-Naera held him off in the final second. The referee blew full time and the Dragons had no challenge.

Sports Grp2

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