Despite slipping to their fourth straight NRL defeat since Paul Vaughan’s infamous barbecue, St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin is adamant his team’s NRL season isn’t finished.
The Dragons lost further ground in the tight race for the top eight with a 20-12 loss to Canberra on the Gold Coast on Friday.
Given both teams started the game equal on points and for-and-against differential, the defeat has left the Dragons’ finals hopes teetering with four games to play.
Griffin’s team lead 8-0 early at Cbus Super Stadium but couldn’t fight their way back after Tom Starling put the Raiders ahead early in the second half.
It means since Vaughan hosted a BBQ that breached public health orders, and led to the former NSW front-rower being sacked by the club and several Dragons players being suspended, the Dragons have slipped from seventh to 11th on the ladder.
Friday’s game was the first for the Dragons without captain Ben Hunt, who broke an arm in last weekend’s loss to South Sydney.
“Our season’s not over but it’s been hard,” Griffin said.
“Ever since Magic Round we haven’t been able to put out best side out.
“We lose our captain last week but tonight we had opportunity to win that game.
“They (Canberra) just got the points too easy, a dummy-half try and two kick tries.
“To their credit, defended their own line really well in the second half and didn’t give us a sniff.”
Adding to the Dragons’ concerns, they lost centre Cody Ramsay in the opening minute after a clash of heads with teammate Andrew McCullough while Tariq Sims, Zac Lomax and Jack De Belin were placed on report.
The Raiders, who moved back into the top eight with the win, had Jordan Rapana and Emre Guler placed on report but coach Ricky Stuart was just delighted to come away with a vital win before their clash next weekend against table-topping Melbourne.
“It’s a win,” Stuart said.
“If we defend like that in the first half next week we’ll get beaten by 60.
“We tested ourselves because in the first ten or so minutes there we turned the ball over twice when we got the footy in our end and gave them an opportunity.
“Fortunately we showed a fair bit of resolve to defend it because they threw a lot of shape at us.”
While the Raiders face a tough challenge against the Storm, life isn’t much easier next week for the Dragons, who face Penrith before a run home including games against the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney.