Re: St George Illawarra Dragons put opposition on notice in NRL Finals 2010
Dragons breathe fire against Manly
St George Illawarra make no apologies for playing it safe in an ultimately comfortable 28-0 NRL qualifying final win over Manly, which earned a week off and knocked out the Sea Eagles.
Despite dominating throughout, the Dragons scored just one try in the opening 65 minutes of the match and ground out a 14-0 lead by choosing to take four consecutive penalty goals instead of going for the bigger prize.
Two quick-fire tries to Matt Cooper and an 80-metre effort from Mark Gasnier towards the end put some excitement into an otherwise unglamorous and tradesman-like performance from the Dragons, who will now play the winner of Canberra and Wests Tigers for a place in the grand final.
St George Illawarra's cautious approach against a battered Sea Eagles outfit did little to dispel criticism that they go into their shell in big games, but for Wayne Bennett, getting to the preliminary final was all that mattered, and he didn't care how they did it.
"We'll make no apologies for taking the penalties," he declared.
"It's (taking penalty kicks) part of the instruction but they've got to make the decision out there on the ground. But we picked up eight points today and if they're going to gift them to you, and there's no guarantee we could have scored tries from them.
"I wasn't too worried about that (one try in opening 65 minutes), I mean they couldn't score any so it was that type of game. It was pretty much a spoiling game and ... that's why they gave so many penalties away trying to slow it all down."
Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward set up his side's first try in the 9th minute when he put a grubber through for his captain Ben Hornby to touch-down inches inside the dead-ball line.
Then for the final 10 minutes of the first and the opening 20 minutes of the second, Soward enjoyed some goal-kicking practice as he potted four straight penalty kicks from close range. Soward confirmed there was never a temptation to not take the two.
"Nup, we know our system we know how it works, there's no argument out there. I know when to take the two I don't even have to look around," he said.
"It's just what stage we're in how we're feeling. We get bagged about taking the two points but it's still two points isn't it?
"We were 8-0, 10-0, 12-0, 14-0 nil up. It takes the game away, slows the game down and it's not like we've just started doing it this week we've been doing it for two years."
Manly started the match depleted and finished it even more so, with Joe Galuvao, Brent Kite and Josh Perry all injured and Anthony Watmough sent to the sin-bin for kneeing Hornby.
Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler felt his team worried the Dragons with their attack, and was pleased with the effort given the circumstances.
"Overall I would have liked to come here today with our full complement," he said.
"I would have liked to have tested St George today full tilt, but in saying that I'm very mindful of the fact that's the way the game is. You have your good runs and you have your poor ones where injuries and suspensions are part of the game and we just got the double whammy.