A Josh Dugan-inspired St George Illawarra Dragons have recorded their fourth win of the season, with a scrappy 20-10 result against the New Zealand Warriors in front of 10,559 fans at WIN Jubilee Stadium.
While the Warriors had their chances throughout the game, they would fall for their third straight loss, leaving new coach Andrew McFadden winless since coming into the role two weeks ago.
While both sides fell victim to heartbreaking losses last weekend, it was the Dragons, boosted by the late inclusions of forwards Jack de Belin and Tyson Frizell, who stood tall under adversity in what was only a five day turnaround since their ill-fated Melbourne trip.
While they remained on an even slate in terms of errors, the Warriors were cruelled by ill-discipline in an overall forgettable game. The Warriors failed to beat the Dragons for the seventh straight year, in a game that really only kicked into gear in the second half.
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A scrappy 10 minutes to the second term was broken momentarily when Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson busted through a gaping hole. Yet it was his partner-in-crime, Sam Tomkins, in the very next set who got his side on the board. The fullback broke three tackles after a simple Thomas Leuluai pass to kick-start the Warriors.
While a penalty goal gave the Dragons another two points, the Warriors scored again in the 63rd minute. On the back of a flat backline passage of play, winger Manu Vatuvei ran half the field down the sideline to rein the score back to 14-10 – although the last pass from his centre Dane Nielsen was very questionable.
Not to be outdone, the Red V faithful would witness a sensational Dragons team try. A chance grubber through by halfback Michael Witt fell into the hands of hooker Mitch Rein. The quick-thinking Rein put boot to ball instantly for Josh Dugan to pick up the scraps and push his side's lead back out to 10, where it would stay.
What proved to be an end-to-end arm wrestle began from the referee's first whistle. In a game that initially begun with two clinical sides, the Dragons and Warriors produced a number of errors, aimless offloads and forward passes in what was an uneventful and scoreless opening 20 minutes.
The opening points came from the Warriors' third conceded penalty, from 30 metres square-on in front of the posts. Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop slotted a penalty goal for a 2-0 early advantage – the crowd providing a dubious welcome to their side's efforts with the unleashing of flares on WIN Jubilee Oval's hill.
With a 2-0 scoreline you'd be forgiven for thinking you were observing soccer. At one point after an indifferent Widdop bomb, the five-eighth tried to make amends by volleying the ball on the full. Coming off the side of his boot, the steeden fell straight to the hands of Jason Nightingale – the winger going very close to scoring his side's first try of the night.
With six minutes left in the half, Nightingale wouldn't allow himself to be denied again after benefiting from a Dragons backline movement. Despite crossing for his fourth try of the season, the Kiwi international would land extremely awkwardly on his neck after a spectacular last-gasp dive to remain within the field of play, ultimately helping his side to a 6-0 lead.
The lead was widened with mere seconds remaining in the half following a charging run by the Dragons English import Mike Cooper. The former Warrington prop went over for his first try for the Red V before helping his side extend the scoreline to a 12-0 half-time lead.
Despite constant pressure throughout the first half from the Warriors, the Dragons back three in Nightingale, Dugan and Brett Morris remained solid and constantly threatened throughout the half. Warriors back-rower Dominique Peyroux would also leave the field of play for an apparent concussion assessment in the first-half although he would return later in proceedings.St George Illawarra Dragons 20
(Dugan, Nightingale, Cooper tries; Widdop 4 goals) defeated New Zealand Warriors 10
(Vatuvei, Tomkins tries; Johnson 1 goal). Crowd: