Dragons 34 Raiders 16
Brett Morris celebrates his try with Dragons teammate Jack de Belin. Photo: Getty Images
Ding dong, the NRL's biggest hoodoo is dead.
The St George Illawarra Dragons secured their first win in Canberra since 2000, 'reversing the curse' with a34-16 win at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Papalii, Rapana, Croker||Tries||3||Tries||7||Players||Morris(3), Dugan, Mata'utia, Nightingale(2)|
|Players||Croker 2/3 (66%)||Conversions||2||Conversions||3||Players||Widdop 3/7 (42%)|
|Players||Penalty goals||0||Penalty goals||0||Players|
|Players||Field goals||0||Field goals||0||Players|
And to make matters worse, Josh Dugan returned to haunt his side in his first game back in Canberra since he was sacked by the Raiders early last year.
Playing at centre, Dugan had the last laugh with a strong game, scoring a crucial second-half try to help put Canberra to the sword.
He dropped the ball over the line attempting to score another late, but by then the damage had been done.
NSW and Australia star Brett Morris had a day out, scoring three tries including a spectacular airborne finish which is fast becoming his trademark.
Canberra led 16-10 early in the second half, but the Dragons piled on 24 unanswered points to ensure the Raiders remain with just two home wins all season.
The result snapped a nine-game Raiders winning streak at any venue against the Dragons, and kept the Red V's finals hopes alive.
Beginning the day four points outside a congested top eight, the Dragons simply needed to find a way to break Canberra's stranglehold over them to stay in the hunt.
Whether it was the witch doctors who gatecrashed training on Friday that 'reversed the curse' or not, it was just the Dragons' second win in the past 18 matches against the Green Machine.
Canberra remains equal last with Cronulla, and heads to Sydney to play the Sharks next week in a clash which could decide the wooden spoon.
Dragons playmaker Benji Marshall has been in Dugan's shoes himself this year when he took on former side Wests Tigers for the first time.
But he said Dugan wasn't intimidated by returning to face the music from Green Machine fans, who booed when his name was announced on the big screen.
Dugan declined to speak to media after the match. Marshall and halves partner Gareth Widdop were instrumental, and appear to be working out their best mix.
"He reckons I was copping it out there more than he was,'' Marshall said, who unlike many of his teammates has never lost in Canberra.
"I don't think he gets fazed too much, he's one of those cat's who's pretty cruisey.''
Morris terrorised opposing number Bill Tupou all match, and credited some gym mats in Wollongong for his acrobatic feats.
His effort against the Raiders was the equal of his astonishing four-pointer against Cronulla earlier this year.
"We're all circus performers,'' he joked.
"A couple of years ago we went down to PCYC in Wellington and there was spring underneath the mats.
"Everyone was trying to outdo each other and I guess it's paying off on the field.
The Raiders were made to pay again for flimsy edge defence, with all six Dragons tries scored out wide. Morris' fellow winger Jason Nightingale helped himself to a double.
Morris scored a hat-trick, while Nightingale crossed for a double to expose a deficiency the Raiders have failed to address all year.
Under-fire Raiders coach Ricky Stuart launched an impassioned plea for fans to stay patient after the match.
Canberra tried hard, but it is severely lacking in the class needed to compete in the NRL.
Josh Papalii played his best game of the year and Paul Vaughan continued his strong season. Acting captain Brett White, playing his final season, showed tremendous guts by playing on despite tearing his groin at kick-off.
"Losing two Origin players last year [Dugan and Blake Ferguson], put us in disarray. We win games this year with those two players in,'' Stuart said.
"We're in a position now we need to rebuild. Every fan, every supporter, they can jam it into us, and they can bag us for what it is.
"Until I get Origin or international players here, around that group of blokes in there and I've got some brilliant young players, it ain't gunna change.''
When Canberra centre Jarrod Croker crossed for his 17th try of the year early in the second half, the Raiders led 16-10.
But then the moment all Raiders fans had been dreaded arrived. Dugan scored from close range after a searching cross-field run from Widdop.
It was all the Dragons after that. Not even the game's biggest hoodoo could save Canberra.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 34 (Brett Morris 3; Jason Nightingale 2, Josh Dugan, Peter Mata'utia tries; Gareth Widdop 3 goals) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 16 (Josh Papalii, Jordan Rapana, Jarrod Croker tries; Croker 2 goals) at Canberra Stadium on Saturday. Referees: Adam Devcich and Grant Atkins. Crowd:10,318