Raiders v Dragons: Five key points
Sezer the saviour, 'The Coaltrain' keeps Canberra on track, de Belin's ball-playing a Dragons weapon and plenty of St George Illawarra upside despite heartbreaking defeat.
Sezer the saviour as Raiders make great escape
For 60 minutes the Raiders had no business claiming any kind of ascendancy yet a moment of inspiration from halfback Aidan Sezer dragged them out of the mire with a 90-metre intercept try that was Canberra's first scoring play since the sixth minute of the game.
The Dragons had enjoyed all the running in the opening minutes of the second half and were piling on the pressure as Gareth Widdop went hard at the Canberra defensive line and had players pushing up on his outside.
But just as Jacob Host thought he was about to barge his way over Sezer plucked the ball from the air, juggled it and then out-raced the Dragons cover defence to score under the posts and allow Jarrod Croker to level the scores with the ensuing conversion.
The two teams traded penalty goals before going to extra time and then it was a Sezer 40/20 (or more accurately a 30/10) with his team struggling to escape their own end that provided the foundation for Elliott Whitehead's match-winning try.
Coaltrain keeps Canberra on track
As soon as he thundered onto the field 11 minutes from half-time Dave Taylor made an impression on the game, and with an offload as he fell to the ground three minutes into golden point he gave us another glimpse of the immense talent he has always possessed.
It was clear that Taylor had been given a clear instruction to get his team on the front foot by coach Ricky Stuart and he did so with impressive effect, racking up 62 metres in six carries up until half-time including an offload close to the try-line that almost resulted in points.
He added a further 43 metres in the opening 10 minutes of the second term but it was his two-minute cameo in extra time that enabled the Raiders to break their horror run of near misses and perhaps provide the kick-start their season so desperately needed.
McCrone the perfect foil for Widdop
After flirting with using Kurt Mann in the No.7 jersey in their last start against the Titans, Dragons coach Paul McGregor reinstated Josh McCrone against the Raiders and it had the desired effect.
McCrone's first instinct is always to step and straighten the attack which pulls the defence in and frees up the likes of Gareth Widdop out wider who can go at a defensive line already looking thin on the outer edges.
He may be headed to the Toronto Wolfpack in 2018 but the Dragons will be best served with McCrone playing halfback for the rest of this season.
De Belin's ball-playing a growing weapon
He came into the top grade as a blonde bombshell known for his big hits but Jack de Belin is proving himself to be a skilful and courageous player with ball in hand.
On the verge of Origin selection, de Belin came on when Russell Packer left in the seventh minute and played a pivotal role in getting the Dragons' attack into gear.
The great benefit that de Belin brings to his playmakers is a willingness to not only go right to the line but crash into it before releasing his outside men, the impact exemplified by Jason Nightingale's first-half try that came via a superb pass from Gareth Widdop.
Life still in Dragons' finals aspirations
It was a seventh loss from their past 10 games but the manner in which St George Illawarra played on Friday night suggests their finals hopes are well and truly alive.
Safely entrenched in the top eight for at least another week, the Dragons were by far the better team for three quarters of the contest but were unable to find that crucial third try to put the Raiders to bed.
They welcomed back Paul Vaughan but lost Russell Packer inside the first seven minutes and were made to reshuffle their backline twice in the second half as first Kurt Mann and then Josh Dugan were forced from the field for head injury assessments.
Nightingale battled on bravely despite a heavy cork, Taane Milne came up with some classy touches when he came onto the field and Tariq Sims looked dangerous with his charges on the right charge.
This one will hurt but there is plenty of potential for upside for the Dragons in the weeks ahead.