Golden-point win for Raiders, Cleary hat-trick stuns Warriors

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Aidan Sezer inspired Canberra Raiders to what could prove to be a crucial 18-14 golden-point win over St George Illawarra Dragons in NRL and Nathan Cleary's hat-trick gave Penrith Panthers victory at New Zealand Warriors.

The Raiders enhanced their chances of reaching the play-offs at the expense of one of their rivals for a top-eight finish, but it took an Elliott Whitehead try in extra time to settle a tense encounter at GIO Stadium on Friday.

Halfback Sezer was the architect for that decisive score, launching a 40-20 which caught the Dragons napping and Dave Taylor's offload in the next set gave Whitehead the chance to dive over in the 84th minute.

The Dragons led 12-6 midway through the second half courtesy of a try from Gareth Widdop, which the captain converted before adding a penalty early in the second half, and Jason Nightingale's four-pointer.

Sezer ran the length of the field to score the Raiders' second try, adding to an early opener from Nick Cotric, and Jarrod Croker slotted the extras prior to knocking over a penalty to put his side in front.

Widdop's 71st-minute penalty brought the Dragons level and it was England international Whitehead who settled it, thanks in no small part to Sezer. Canberra's win may come at a cost, as Josh Papalii's shoulder charge ended Josh Dugan's night prematurely.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are within two points of the top eight after their 34-22 defeat of the Warriors.

Teenage halfback Cleary was the star of the show in the absence of the injured Matt Moylan at Mt Smart Stadium, where Manu Vatuvei's farewell ended in a disappointing loss.

Long-serving Vatuvei had the stadium renamed in his honour for the night and watched on before heading off to join Super League side Salford Red Devils, as 19-year-old Cleary scored 22 points in an outstanding display.

Corey Harawira-Naera, Premiership debutant Tyrone May and Waqa Blake also went over for the visitors, while the Warriors were rocked by a knee injury sustained by Shaun Johnson.