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Widdop steers Dragons to upset win

Widdop steers Dragons to upset win
Josh Dugan's reincarnation as a centre gathered more momentum on Monday night, producing an Origin-like performance in his side's 24-12 victory over Melbourne. 

Less than 24 hours before New South Wales coach Laurie Daley names his team for Origin III in Brisbane, Dugan scored one try and set up the match-sealing one seconds after being treated for an injured hand. 

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Leading 14-6 midway through the second half, the Dragons were deep in Melbourne's half with the strike centre back on halfway. 

But the reborn Blue raced back into the attacking line and broke through before conjuring a neat flick pass for wingman Jason Nightingale to take what looked to be an unassailable 18-6 lead. 

The Dragons scored five tries to two but in swirling conditions, five-eighth Gareth Widdop was only able to convert one attempt, keeping Melbourne in the game. However the home side was able to hold on, and are now just two points out of the top eight. 

In front of a brave crowd of 10,117, it was halfback Benji Marshall who orchestrated the first try, forcing a repeat set and then firing a sublime three-man cut-out for Dugan in the next one to take an early 6-0 lead after six minutes. 

The home side went further ahead when Widdop chased through his own 15th minute dink over the defensive line that flat-footed Billy Slater and sat up perfectly for the former Storm man. 

However what would've pleased coach Paul McGregor the most was a goal-line defence that twice thwarted Melbourne opportunities to hit back, first to Mahe Fonua on a left side shift, and then to Sisa Waqa on the right. 

But a 27th-minute Will Chambers line break against the run of play led to Slater's 166th career try, taking him past Andrew Ettingshausen on the all-time try-scorers list, and on their way to clawing their way back into the game. 

There was a scare in the final minute before half-time when Dugan appeared to have suffered a left leg injury, but after halting play for a few minutes, the NSW centre slowly got to his feet and played on. 

After 40 minutes, a crisp Dragons outfit took a deserved 10-6 lead into the break. 

And while that sharpness went missing in the second half, the willingness didn't. This was exemplified by an opportunistic Mitch Rein pouncing on a 53rd-minute grubber from Marshall that ricocheted off the Melbourne defence and ended in the Dragons regaining a 10-point lead. 

The hosts lifted after that, leading to Dugan's brave moment 10 minutes later, and then Charly Runciman's try in the south-east corner off a floating three-man cut-out pass from Widdop. 

There were hopes of a Storm comeback when Kurt Mann dived on a Ben Roberts grubber in the 75th minute but the Dragons held on to avenge a heart-breaking 28-24 loss in Melbourne earlier this year. 

St George Illawarra Dragons 24 (Josh Dugan, Gareth Widdop, Mitch Rein, Jason Nightingale, Charly Runciman tries; Widdop goal) defeated Melbourne Storm 12 (Billy Slater, Kurt Mann tries; Cameron Smith 2 goals) at WIN Stadium. Crowd: 10,117.
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