Dufty delivers magic moments for Dragons in tense win over Raiders
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor thought youngster Matt Dufty might drop his head when he dropped the ball early against Canberra.
Instead the fullback electrified a surprisingly lacklustre Dragons side with two moments of individual brilliance in a tense 25-18 win in Mudgee as they maintained their NRL ladder lead.
Puff they go: Gareth Widdop and Matt Dufty celebrate on their way to a tough win in Mudgee.
Canberra had a couple of shots on the Dragons line to force golden point late, however Widdop sealed a seven-point win with a 77th-minute field goal.
"He (Dufty) came up with a few errors but it's great to see he didn't go into being quiet and for a young bloke that's really pleasing because he's still learning his craft at fullback," McGregor said. "I thought Duff at different stages really grew and got us back in the game through sheer brilliance. He had a mixed day but he certainly makes a point of difference with that speed."
The Raiders were leading 12-10 when Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes scooted out of dummy half and hit a surging Jack de Belin, who found a supporting Dufty before kicking ahead for Widdop.
Scintillating: Dufty dazzled with some individual brilliance for the Dragons.
Canberra winger Jordan Rapana hit back with a 50-metre run off a quick tap, only to be sin-binned five minutes later for a professional foul that resulted in Widdop's score-levelling penalty soon after.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was livid with his team's decision to opt against a field goal late in the contest when they only had 12 men.
"It was 18-all there with a player off and we had a play-the-ball on tackle five in front of the goalposts. We should kick the field goal and we should've gone a point up and we get our man back," he said. "We've got to start being smart about our football, and we're not."
The win means the Dragons (9-2) remain two points clear of Penrith and the Warriors in top spot, while the Raiders (4-7) remain four points outside the top eight.
The Raiders got over the line three times inside the opening 13 minutes but were denied twice, with Nick Cotric's corner finish providing the opening points of the contest.
The Dragons responded through a soft de Belin four-pointer under the posts, before gifting one back to Joseph Leilua by bizarrely giving up on a play on their own tryline.
However some ill-discipline from the Raiders cost them a halftime lead, with a high tackle by Josh Papalii and shoulder charge by Joseph Tapine – both on Dufty – landing them on report.
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