Stuart is upset over a controversial call as Raiders lose to Dragons

St George Illawarra picked up two vital points en route to the final, defeating the Canberra Raiders 12-10 on a torrential rain-spoiled afternoon in Wollongong.

The game ended in controversy as the Raiders cried out for an under-the-post penalty that would have allowed them to lose two points to send the game into overtime.

Ben Hunt was clearly off the marker in a tackle when Canberra attempted to move the ball in the 80’s last game, but referee Peter Gough blew full-time and not in favor of the Raiders.

Gough had signaled a six again – it was difficult to tell whether it was the hunt tackle or the tackle before it – although Canberra would obviously have preferred a regular penalty and a shot on target.

“I’ve only seen it once,” said Ricky Stuart. “I only had to see it once. Tomorrow I’ll get an apology or justification that it might not be a penalty.

“We are prepared to win this game. It was hard work in the first half but we let ourselves down in the second half.

“In the high-performance business, there will always be pressure. And when it’s under pressure, you have to have courage. And the last piece of the day took courage.”

In a game marred by horrendous conditions, this was likely always going to be a game of attrition and defense and it was the Dragons who fared better in the Illawarra Steelers 40th Anniversary game.

They accumulated their points as the winds blew in their favor, then bolstered their defense to keep the Raiders at bay. Following the game has always been a difficult question.

Xavier Savage. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

The 65mph north-south wind gave St George Illawarra a chance to extend their lead in the first half and while it didn’t look like 12-4 would do, it proved sufficient.

“It was a big game, they were just right for it,” said Anthony Griffin. “Even though we had the wind, they were better off in the first half. We had to get two points today and we got them, so let’s keep going.

“In the first half we got a few penalties and field position at times from their mistakes but we didn’t respect the conditions that much.

“We were a bit sideways and didn’t have enough physique. But to our credit we played the football we need to play against the wind in the second half.”

We killed ourselves with mistakes but our kicking game and defense kept us at the back of the field for a long time and that’s how we won the game. If they had had more good ball, they might have caught us today.

Raiders had particularly big problems with kicking: they made two crucial mistakes through short misses when playing upwind, while in the second case they kicked dead and missed a penalty when the breeze carried the ball far from the touchline.

St George Illawarra full-back Cody Ramsey fared little better but was eventually pardoned by his defense and, after time, by the referee.

The Dragons rarely excel in attack, and given the conditions, they were unlikely to risk their arm too much early on. Both teams made it through to halftime with completion rates in excess of 80% but with the bonus of attacking Footy.

The three attempts that arrived were the result of errors and bargeovers. The first was absurd: Canberra tried to make a lunge short, but it narrowly broke the level of the 10-metre line.

Jack Wighton punched backwards but straight into the hands of Junior Amone, who couldn’t believe his luck.

Lomax missed out on the conversion, but was given another chance to add two points shortly after. The Raiders didn’t learn their lesson from the previous short miss and tried another one, which didn’t make it to the 10-yard line.

It offered an easy shot off the tee: although the ball fell to match the storm and the tee shot away when Lomax set it up. After Andrew McCullough got on his hands and knees to help, the ball flew through the post.

The Raiders had been more than charitable, and it was time the Dragons returned the favor. Aaron Woods dropped one on contact and allowed a good set of balls that Canberra didn’t give away.

Wighton, who had previously been stung by his attempt to gift Amone, was able to make amends by laying one down for his full-back Xavier Savage, who separated winger and center and slid deep to get over the line.

On the edge of the break, Nick Cotric struggled to catch a bombshell in the wind and offered St George Illawarra another chance at the line where Moses Suli took a 12-4 lead at half-time through a poor try from Savage.

With the change of sides came a change of momentum. After spending a few sets in the Dragons end, Joseph Tapine broke the line only to be felled by a high tackle by Ramsey.

The Raiders complained it should have been 10 minutes and were denied but celebrated just two tackles later when Hudson Young rattled through a poor defensive effort to come back on two points.

There were plenty of mistakes: Jordan Rapana offered the Dragons a chance but they coughed the ball back before Ramsey spilled a kick himself and gave the Raiders a good ball that Wighton dropped in the first game.

Scoring chances were few and far between and with the clock ticking down, that was good for St George Illawarra. Both teams finished south of 70%, but only one side needed to score.

Another Ramsey error resulted in a final shot that the Raiders couldn’t capitalize on: however, they would say neither the Dragons’ offside defense nor the referee gave them a chance. Stuart is upset over a controversial call as Raiders lose to Dragons

Nate Jones

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