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St George Illawarra Dragons 16 def Gold Coast Titans 10

IN hot conditions at Wollongong the Dragons and Titans played out a high-paced, physical but not particularly skilful game.

After 80 minutes it was St George Illawarra who took the two points because they made the least mistakes. The Titans didn’t do too much wrong but their errors were conceded in bad areas of the field and were compounded with other errors. They also had little sting in attack, only Scott Prince looked dangerous.

And that was about it – neither side looked fantastic with the ball, defence was in the ascendancy and the home fans went home happy… ish.

The Game Swung When… In the 43rd minute Wendell Sailor contested a kick with Titans winger Esikeli Tonga in which the ball rebounded off Tonga into touch. While it was contentious whether Sailor was actually going for the ball – further replays suggested he was not – on first glance it looked like he was, and the wily veteran got the spoils: Dragons scrum feed 20 metres out. A few plays later Jamie Soward laid on a nice grubber that bounced through Ben Hornby’s arms for Neville Costigan to touch down under the posts.

With the Dragons up by eight, the Titans began to throw the ball around, the game’s speed and the heat combining to open up both defences a tad. But Saints hung tough.

In the 62nd minute Hornby was taken out after kicking by Luke O’Dwyer, who compounded the error by knocking on following another Hornby kick. This won’t win him points with coach Hoss Cartwright, particularly when the Dragons scored in the next set. And that was the ball game.

Who Was Hot… While he’s no longer actually “fast”, Wendell Sailor is the biggest, most experienced winger in the game – and he’s still not easy to tackle.

Kudos also to Michael Weyman (19 runs, 168 metres) and Ben Creagh (18 runs, 154 metres).

The Titans’ best by the length of WIN Stadium was workhorse hooker Nathan Friend (49 tackles, two tackle breaks), who seemed to be everywhere and saved a certain try with desperate defence.

Replacement wing William Zillman showed some nice touches during his infrequent opportunities.

Who Was Not… Jamie Soward put a chip kick out on the full and his passing wasn’t crisp. Soward took the ball one off the ruck perhaps more than half Ben Hornby, and the Dragons outside backs didn’t get great ball. It wasn’t bad ball, per se, but the Dragons’ attack out wide didn’t flow. Is this two-prong halves combination the Dragons’ best link between forwards and backs? Big Benny must be wondering.

At fullback Darius Boyd looked dangerous (he broke six tackles for the second week running) – without ever actually being dangerous, given most of his metres were gained sideways.

For the Titans, five-eighth Mat Rogers gave away two penalties, dropped the ball and didn’t do much else (he ran once in the first 50 minutes, four times all game). Even looked like he knew he was having a shocker. Titans’ fans deserve more from him such a talented footballer.

Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… The speed of this game in the hot conditions. It was so hot both sides looked almost relieved when there were penalties; they were too tired to argue.

In the fourth minute Scott Prince intercepted a poor Ben Hornby pass with his right boot, the ball and eventually Prince (when he caught up to it) going 40 metres to score the Titans’ first try. Classy player, S Prince. (Of course he also dropped the ball – on first tackle 10 metres out – colder than Darth Vader at Thredbo.)

Meanwhile, Titans back-rower Brad Meyers has arguably the reddest beard in NRL history.

Bad Boys… All good boys, these boys.

Refs Watch… Despite being more anonymous than the Daddo brothers in Las Vegas, refs Ashley Klein and Alan Shortall had fine games.

A couple of times players got annoyed that their passes were called forward… but that’s because their passes went forward. Nope, no argument: fine games from the officials in conditions that could have made for hot-under-the-collar footy. Best & Fairest… 3 points – Nathan Friend (Titans): Did all his team’s tackling, handled the ball 100 times and pulled off a try-saver on a winger in the corner; 2 points – Ben Creagh (Dragons): 19 tackles, 18 runs and 80 minutes of effort; 1 point – Wendell Sailor (Dragons): He’s not the player he was 10 years ago – but there’s still plenty to like about Big Del.

Dragons 16 (J Smith, N Costigan, J Nightingale tries; J Soward 2 goals) def Titans 10 (S Prince, W Zillman tries; S Prince 1 goal) at WIN Stadium. Crowd: 13,329.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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