Raiders stave off Dragons NRL comeback

Jarrod Croker scored one of Canberra's four tries as the Raiders beat the Dragons 22-16.
Jarrod Croker scored one of Canberra's four tries as the Raiders beat the Dragons 22-16.

Canberra have made a triumphant return home by withstanding a second-half surge from St George Illawarra to prevail 22-16 at GIO Stadium.

Playing in their first match in the nation's capital since the NRL's return from lockdown, the Raiders led 22-0 with 20 minutes to go on a chilly Friday night.

Back-to-back Dragons tries gave the visitors some hope, but they could not manage a third try - Matt Dufty's second - until the 89th minute.

The victory temporarily lifts Ricky Stuart's side to fifth spot, while the loss for St George Illawarra again leaves McGregor under pressure to hold onto his job.

Stuart was delighted with the two points after a hellish month of travelling for both home and away games due to biosecurity measures.

"You gotta understand how hard the last 4-5 weeks have been with our travel," he said post-game.

"I think we're the only team that has to go on the bus for three hours, get off and play a game of football.

"I've been very proud of how the boys have handled it, because they had to find a lot of energy there tonight in that last 20 minutes."

The win may have come at a cost for the Raiders, with veteran forward Iosaia Soliola sent to hospital for a suspected fractured left eye socket.

He appeared to sustain the injury after a first-half head clash with Blake Lawrie.

Teammate Emre Guler also failed to finish the match after suffering a suspected right-leg injury late in the second half.

Canberra's left edge, which looked particularly potent for most of the game, claimed first points when momentum carried Nick Cotric over in the fifth minute.

Wing partner Bailey Simonsson doubled the lead 10 minutes later when he soared over Mikaele Ravalawa to take George Williams' crossfield kick.

The Dragons had a handful of chances to get back into the contest, but let themselves down with poor play in good-ball sets and untimely errors.

Williams made them pay just before halftime when he split two flat-footed front-rowers to give the Raiders an unanswered three-try lead at the break.

The early signs were promising for St George Illawarra in the second half, with only a bad bounce preventing Dufty from scoring their first try.

Raiders captain Jarrod Croker looked to have killed off the contest when he pounced on a Jack Wighton grubber in the 56th minute.

However, Dufty finally broke the Dragons' drought when he chased a Corey Norman kick, before Zac Lomax touched down moments after.

"I was filthy with our first 40 (minutes)... Errors are a part of the game. You've got to get each other's back and be better, and defend them," McGregor said.

"There was a couple of real tries that shouldn't have been scored."

Australian Associated Press