AAP Rugby

Cotric sent off but Raiders thump Dragons

By AAP Newswire

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has fiercely defended Nick Cotric after the centre had become the first NRL player sent off this season in their thumping 36-14 win against George Illawarra.

Cotric, in his first game back from a syndesmosis injury, scored Sunday evening's opening try, but was sent off for a dangerous throw on Dragons centre Tim Lafai in the 59th minute in Wollongong.

It marked the first send-off since Melbourne's Curtis Scott last year for punching Manly's Dylan Walker.

Stuart was seething, post-match, saying the 20-year-old Cotric should not have been marched.

"That was not an intentional spear tackle," Stuart said.

"Whoever thinks it's a spear tackle does not know the game of rugby league. If you call it a spear tackle, you've only just started watching the game and you shouldn't be involved in the game.

"It's unintentional and it got away from him a bit - I understand that - but it was accidental. He's a strong kid and he's got no malice in him at all. I feel sorry for the officials who have to react to all this hype around it. I just thought it was very harsh.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor agreed.

"There was no intent on Nick's behalf and it just ended up in the wrong position."

Despite Cotric's dismissal, Canberra scored the next two tries.

Raiders centre Jarrod Croker broke two records and co-captain Josh Hodgson was instrumental as Canberra leapfrogged the Sydney Roosters into third on the ladder.

Croker, 28, became Canberra's leading try-scorer and the youngest player to reach 1900 points.

The Dragons started all four of their State of Origin players but were lacklustre for most of the night as the visitors ran riot.

NSW representative Cotric scored after barging through three tacklers in the 10th minute.

St George Illawarra should have equalised in the 16th minute but Mikaele Ravalawa stumbled, allowing a try-saving Croker tackle.

One minute later, Croker threw a dummy, fended off Euan Aitken and re-wrote Canberra's record books with his 121st try.

Hodgson dominated through the middle and produced two first-half strips, before Joe Tapine scored a slam-dunk try on halftime.

The Raiders picked up where they left off and forced fullback Matt Dufty into the in-goal which led to Bailey Simonsson scoring in the 42nd minute.

Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton, still buzzing from Origin, was pulling the strings as the visitors made it two tries in five minutes.

Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad went out of dummy-half and darted over for his seventh try of the season to set up a 26-0 lead.

The Dragons looked dead and buried but scored the next two tries through Korbin Sims and Luciano Leilua, however the revival was short-lived.

Canberra's Siliva Havili scored next before Nicoll-Klokstad bagged his fifth career double in the 67th minute.

Dufty ran away with a consolation intercept try at the death.