ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS INTO THE 2010 NRL RUGBY LEAGUE GRAND FINAL
Dragons scrape past Tigers & into the 2010 NRL Grand Final :tt03:
St George Illawarra are finally in an NRL grand final, scraping home 13-12 over the Wests Tigers on the back of a Jamie Soward field goal at ANZ Stadium.
The Dragons will now meet the Sydney Roosters in next Sunday's decider at the same venue after the Bondi club won Friday's preliminary final against the Gold Coast 32-6.
But the minor premiers took a harder path to the grand final, falling behind 12-6 at the break but employing their characteristic grind to haul themselves over the line and reach a first decider since 1999.
With the scores locked at 12-12 from the 50th minute, Soward clinically slotted over from 33m out in the 74th to end the Tigers' first finals campaign since a premiership victory in 2005.
The Dragons made the second-last week in both 2005 and 2006 and exited in straight sets last year despite winning the minor premiership in their first season under six-time title-winning coach Wayne Bennett.
The Dragons, as pre-merger St George, last met the Roosters in a grand final in 1975 while they haven't won a competition since 1979, losing five grand finals as both entities after that success.
And it could have been another tale of woe for Dragons fans after the Tigers made the most of the misfiring opponent to take a 12-6 lead in the first 40 minutes.
Rookie halfback Robert Lui had a hand in both of the Tigers' tries, first laying on a neat passing play for Lote Tuqiri to score in the 17th minute.
Bennett's men replied in the 28th when lock Jeremy Smith, who had looked to be the third Dragon to be held up in the first 40, squeezed the ball down after a clever dummy-half play from reserve Nathan Fien.
But Lui scored under the posts in the 36th minute for the Tigers to regain the lead after a superb offload from Liam Fulton.
The Dragons locked it up at 12-12 in the 50th minute after Jamie Soward sent Jason Nightingale on a sprint down the right, and the winger was on hand to score under the posts on the next play.
The momentum turned St George Illawarra's way and, as the Tigers' attack faltered, Soward stepped up to the mark to fire home.
The Dragons survived a final minute attacking blitz started by Tigers prop Keith Galloway before a large majority of the 71,212 fans erupted.
An unsavoury verbal clash between rival hookers Dean Young and Robbie Farah, with Young alleged to have made a racially derogatory remark, threatened to overshadow the clash.
Young and Farah were involved in an altercation after the Dragons No.9 had been held up over the Tigers' line in the 21st minute but the Tigers skipper declined to take the matter further with referees Shayne Hayne and Ben Cummins.
Bennett said he'd sent a message down to ensure his side snagged a point before the game hit extra time.
"They set it up great and they had the belief and the confidence they could hold out for another six or seven minutes," he said.
"That's all part of the package - if you don't think you can hold that one point, then you don't go for it, you're looking for more."
The fans may see him as the saviour, but Bennett said entering his eighth grand final week - and third against arch rival Brian Smith - hadn't yet hit home.
"It hasn't kind of struck me yet," he said.
"It was a pretty tough game - intense and you're never sure ... so the feeling will get better as the night goes on."
Tigers coach Tim Sheens said his side were in a similar position to the Dragons of last year.
"(They) went on to be stronger from it and that's where we want to be, stronger for it next year," Sheens said.
Re: ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS INTO THE 2010 NRL RUGBY LEAGUE GRAND FINAL
Grand Final tale of revenge and resurrection
Revenge and resurrection will underpin the Dragons and Roosters campaigns for the Telstra Premiership Grand Final at ANZ Stadium next Sunday (October 3) after both sides showed this weekend what a difference 12 months can make to qualify for the 2010 season-decider.
The Dragons and Roosters were at opposite ends of the NRL ladder last year as minor premiers and wooden-spooners ... and both missed the finals, but the 2010 Grand Final series has already shown how far they have come as St George Illawarra ground out a 13-12 win over the Wests Tigers on Saturday night at ANZ Stadium and the Roosters thumped the Titans 32-6 on Friday night at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium to qualify for next Sunday's shot at glory.
In front of a combined total crowd of over 115,00 rugby league fans in Brisbane and Sydney this weekend, the Dragons and Roosters have set the stage for an enthralling Grand Final in what will be their 24th encounter since the formation of St George Illawarra in 1999 (Dragons - 14 wins, 1 draw, eight losses). As St George, the Dragons and Roosters last met in a Grand Final in 1975.
For the Dragons, the 2010 Grand Final offers them the chance to avenge the controversial loss to Melbourne Storm in their first and only finals appearance (as the merged St George Illawarra Dragons); as well as their straight sets loss last year despite winning the Minor Premiership in their first season under six-time Premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett; their second-last week finals exits in 2005 and 2006; and even shake off the unwanted "choker" tag.
While for the Roosters, the 2010 Grand Final marks a miraculous turnaround for the club and their Dally M winning five-eighth Todd Carney; and gives them the chance to become the first team since Western Suburbs in 1934 to go from wooden spooners to premiers the following season and finally end veteran coach Brian Smith's title drought.
Just 12 months ago Carney was completing his year-long exile from the NRL playing park football in far north Queensland (and losing their grand final) and the Roosters had “won” the wooden spoon, while off-field they had earned themselves the “Bondi bad boys” tag.
Already this season’s efforts have been recognised with their Dally M captain, coach overall and positional wins … but a 13th premiership for the club and the first for evergreen coach Brian Smith would be the ultimate dream come true.
“It’s a dream come true … I’ve never been a happier person in my whole life,” Carney told the Nine Network after the match.
Likewise, Dragons hooker Dean Young described the opportunity as a "dream come true" ... but no fairytale is without drama and both Carney and Young may hear from the Match Review Committee on Monday.
Carney was placed on report for a high tackle on Titans half Scott Prince in the 37th minute. Fortunately he has no carry-over baggage which could save him if he cops a low grade charge; but he will miss the Grand Final if he incurs more than 100 penalty points.
While Young was involved in a verbal clash with rival hooker Robbie Farah, with Young alleged to have made a racially derogatory remark. The NRL Match Review committee will investigate the incident as part of their normal review process
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