DRAGONS five-eighth Jamie Soward returned to haunt his former club with a stunning 21-point personal haul in his side’s 29-0 thrashing of Sydney Roosters.
The traditional ANZAC Day clash has produced some nail-biters in recent seasons but from the moment Soward sliced through within the first minute to send Brett Morris over – then nailed the sideline conversion – the Roosters were never in the game.
The Dragons led by 9-0 at half-time thanks to a Soward penalty and a late field-goal but exploded after the break with Soward again at the heart of the action, scoring two tries and two more goals to ensure the visitors made it five wins from seven outings under new coach Wayne Bennett in 2009.
While the Sydney Roosters have now gone more than 120 minutes without scoring a point, the Dragons have found the perfect mix of A-B-C football mixed with a touch of flair out wide.
And none in the NRL are doing it better than Soward, the diminutive playmaker boasting a remarkable ability to embarrass lazy defensive lines with his blistering turn of pace.
His first try came somewhat unexpectedly as Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce’s wayward pass was intercepted by Beau Scott. In a flash Soward was there to take Scott’s offload and race away for the try.
He then produced another breathtaking piece of play as he scooped up a Roosters kick 25 metres out from his own line and turned on the backburners to split the defence and run to the tryline untouched.
For so long a tease to their diehard supporters, the Dragons finally look the real deal this season.
The Game Swung When… Soward split the defence to set up his side’s first try after just 58 seconds of the match.
Confidence is low at the Roosters and it couldn’t have helped when Mark O’Meley’s tremendous effort in charging down Soward’s first kick somehow ended up with the Dragons running almost 70 metres to score.
Who Was Hot… Soward was by far the standout performer with his 21-point haul but he wasn’t alone in denting the Roosters’ line.
The Dragons’ backs ran rampant with winger Jason Nightingale running for a game-high 207 metres in his best performance of the season and Darius Boyd further pressing his Queensland Origin claims with 150 metres from fullback.
Justin Poore led the way up front with 124 metres and 27 tackles.
Who Was Not… The Roosters struggled to make any meaningful impact against the staunch Dragons defence, with only Sam Perrett (133) and Willie Mason (108) making more than 100 metres.
Their poor metres up front included Mark O’Meley making just 42, Nate Myles 44, Craig Fitzgibbon 65, Lopini Paea 65 and Shane Shackleton 74.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Jamie Soward’s second try – a 75-metre effort – was a superb piece of vision.
Fielding a kick deep inside his own territory, Soward jogged slowly across field until he spotted the slightest gap in the Roosters’ chase and suddenly darted through.
He then swerved around fullback Sam Perrett and raced upfield untouched to score.
Injuries… Ben Creagh (Dragons) – knee, 0-1 weeks; Sisi Waqa (Roosters) – back, indefinite.
Bad Boys… The Dragons’ Matt Prior was hit with a dangerous contact charge but will escape suspension with an early guilty plea.
Refs Watch… No-one to blame but themselves for the Sydney Roosters, after decent performances from referees Tony De Las Heras and Shayne Hayne.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Jamie Soward (Dragons): Scored two tries, set up another and ran for an impressive 190 metres on the way to a personal tally of 21 points; 2 points – Justin Poore (Dragons): Led the way up front for the Dragons with 124 metres and 27 tackles; 1 point – Jason Nightingale (Dragons): Helped out his forwards with plenty of dummy-half scurries, scored a try and notched up a game-high 207 metres.
Dragons 29 (J Soward 2, B Morris, J Nightingale tries; J Soward 6 goals, field-goal) def Roosters 0 at Sydney Football Stadium. Crowd: 28, 926.