ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS RECEIVE SHIELD AFTER VICTORY OVER SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
The St George Bank Dragons have tonight maintained their authority on the NRL Telstra Premiership with a 38-24 victory over the Rabbitohs in front of 18,274 fans at WIN Jubilee Oval.
A hat-trick to Ben Creagh as well as another four tries to the Dragons was too much for the Rabbitohs as they missed out on the finals series.
The Dragons went into the match with a depleted line-up with five regular starters all missing from the match. Captain Ben Hornby, five-eighth Jamie Soward, Hooker Dean Young, Lock Jeremy Smith and Forward Trent Merrin all missing. With Coach Bennett naming a large interchange bench earlier in the week they were all used with Wagga junior and St George junior representative player Cameron Smith making his NRL debut.
Coach Wayne Bennett was happy with the match and proud of the younger players that stepped up tonight.
“We knew a few blokes were going to be missing tonight but the others stepped up which is pleasing,” Bennett said. “It’s good to know we have a squad of players that are able to play the style of play we want and are able to do a job.”
Stand-in Captain Matt Cooper was pleased with the result but knows there is always work to do.
“Benny (Creagh) was on fire early in the match,” Cooper said. “But we let ourselves down a bit in defence again a little in that second half but we’ll look at that.”
In the opening minutes the Dragons had a try disallowed after Kyle Stanley put a grubber in for himself and when he went to flick it back but had planted his foot on the dead ball line.
It didn’t take long for the Minor Premiers to earn their first points for the night through Ben Creagh in the sixth minute. It was an exciting passage of play with the Dragons shifting the ball to the left two off-loads ended with Brett Morris being forced towards the western touchline but he managed to flick the ball out to stand-in skipper Matt Cooper who then found Creagh who went over to score. Stanley had the kicking duties and converted putting the Dragons in front 6-nil.
From the return set the Dragons went 100m to go over for their second try of the night. It was a Nathan Fien mid-field bomb that was thrown up in the air and it was Creagh who got above the Rabbitohs and came down with the ball he off-loaded to Cooper and as he ran into some defence he off-loaded to Creagh who had an open line in front of him and scored his second of the night. Stanley again converted to take the lead out to 12-nil after 10 minutes.
It was the Creagh show with the rangy back rower registering a hat-trick after just 18 minutes of play. This time around there wasn’t as much fanfare with the Rabbitohs reeling in defence it was just Fien taking the ball to the line and a perfectly timed pass sent Creagh over. Stanley added the extras to put the red and whites up 18-nil after as many minutes.
A high shot from Dave Taylor on the retiring Luke Priddis directly under the posts gave referee Ben Cummins no other option but to penalise the Rabbitohs. Stanley again took the shot at goal and converted to extend the lead out to 20-nil.
The Rabbitohs were finally able to open their account for the night in the 28th minute through winger Fetuli Talanoa. Off the back of Jarrod Saffy being taken into touch the Rabbitohs were given a chance to attack. They didn’t disappoint with Taylor throwing a smart cut-out ball to Talanoa who went over to score in the south-east corner. Chris Sandow smartly converted to close the gap to 20-6.
The celebrations were short lived from the boys from South Sydney with Brett Morris on the end of a slick movement by the Dragons. The now famous out the back play worked again for the Dragons with the ball going through the hands of Fien, Darius Boyd and then to Morris who went over in the north-western corner. Stanley had packed his kicking boots with the ball crossing over the black dot to leave the score at 26-6 after 33 minutes.
The second stanza started with a more structured style of play from both sides with some enterprising play being shown by both outfits without a result. At the 55 minute mark though the Dragons earned three sets of six at the Rabbitohs line which resulted in Boyd scoring his second try of the season. The Rabbitohs just couldn’t hold the Dragons out and when Boyd got the ball in his hands and there didn’t seem to be anything happening the Origin star jinked around a number of players and he reached out to score. Stanley again converted to extend the lead out to 32-6.
There will be an anxious wait for Beau Scott tomorrow with the Picton junior being placed on report for a late shot on Sandow. After the penalty was awarded the Rabbitohs were on the attack and a movement to the left resulted in Jamie Simpson scoring the visitors second try of the night. Sandow converted to close the gap to 32-12 after 62 minutes.
The Rabbitohs weren’t slowing down and two minutes later went over again with Dylan Farrell scoring in the north-eastern corner. Sandow took the conversion in swift time and with the score now 32-18.
A momentous occasion came in the 69th minute when Cooper went over to score his 100th career try after a lucky piece of play. With the ball being shifted to the left Fien threw a long ball which was headed to Cooper but struck Jarrod Saffy in the head and a lucky bounce was picked up by Cooper and he went over untouched to score and celebrate by giving the famous Dragons shield a kiss.
Stanley converted once more to leave the score at 38-16.
The Rabbitohs were able to score a consolation try through Eddy Pettybourne in the 76th minute and Sandow again converted with the match finishing in favour of the Dragons 38-24.
DRAGONS 38 (Creagh 3, Morris, Boyd, Cooper Tries; Stanley 7 Goals) RABBITOHS 24 (Talanoa, Simpson, Farrell, Pettybourne Tries; Sandow 4 Goals)
Referees: Ben Cummins and Alan Shortall
Away...Dragons fullback Darius Boyd makes a break.