THE Dragons lost their bottle while the Bulldogs’ fans were left throwing theirs onto the field when a contentious ‘no try’ video ruling in the dying stages cost the visitors a miraculous come-from-behind victory at WIN Jubilee Oval.
After accelerating to a 20-12 lead deep into the second half St George Illawarra ran out of petrol, with dreadlock-wearing 18-year-old Bulldogs centre Jamal Idris almost stealing a try double in the final nine minutes to get the blue-and-whites home.
The Dragons looked comfortable after a determined Justin Poore try in the 66th minute pushed them to an eight-point advantage. But then Idris dwarfed his opposite winger Brett Morris in a leap for a Brett Kimmorley cross-field bomb, Hazem El Masri’s conversion bridging the gap to two.
The Bulldogs then came at the Dragons’ tired defence in waves and looked to have sealed a memorable and brave win when fullback Luke Patten sliced through, linking with Idris who had a clear passage to the line with just 30 seconds on the clock.
In ‘real time’ there appeared to be some impediment to the Dragons’ defence of the move – with video referee Steve Clark looking long and hard at the incident before ruling Bulldogs back-rower Greg Eastwood had held Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward back while in an offside position as Patten weaved through the throng of players from both sides.
Technically it was a fair cop – maybe – although a case could also be made that the visitors were dudded big time.
The Dragons had 70 per cent of the possession for the first 20 minutes but never looked likely to crack the Bulldogs steely defensive line. Their passing was imprecise and their combinations sour. They looked flat.
The Bulldogs, by comparison, looked energetic when they finally got their hands on the ball. The looked ‘likely’. It was clear very early on, despite the Dragons’ 14-0 lead, that there wouldn’t be much in the game.
The Game Swung When… Clark ruled ‘no try’ and the fulltime siren sounded.
Elsewhere… a big call to disallow Ben Creagh a try in the 28th minute that, if converted, would have delivered the Dragons’ a 20-0 lead. Video ref Clark ruled a double movement although replays showed the arm carrying the ball only brushed the turf in the action of promoting the footy. A tough call. Almost as big as the Idris call. Almost.
In the 37th minute, with the Dragons leading 14-0, centre Beau Scott was tackled to ground on his 30-metre line; the tacklers fell off in the collision and Scott, without a hand on him, regained his feet made a few tentative strides while looking at referee Tony Archer for guidance. Unfortunately Archer blew a crucial penalty.
From there the Bulldogs earned a repeat set and when Brett Kimmorley sold the biggest dummy of his career and ran 10 metres to score the visitors were heading to the sheds with just an eight-point deficit.
Also, Idris appeared to have scored under the posts in the 48th minute but lost control of the ball after some solid defence.
Had they won, the Bulldogs would have been celebrating their play from the 45th minute: they lost Kimmorley to the sin-bin for a professional foul which thwarted a Dragons’ tryscoring opportunity following a long Matt Cooper line-break, but refused to concede any points while their no.7 was off the field.
Who Was Hot… Trimmed-down powerhouse Michael Weyman (16 hit-ups, 128 metres with five tackle breaks in just 49 minutes) looks to have sewn up a Blues jersey after a wonderful, surging performance.
Ben Hornby (57 touches, three tackle breaks and a try assist) schemed and probed. Darius Boyd always made more than his fair share of metres (161, with eight tackle breaks) returning kicks or darting from the ruck. Wendell Sailor (17 runs) continues to defy time and was a crucial contributor.
Jamie Soward had a quiet game after injuring his shoulder falling when tackled but still managed a wonderful 40/20.
For the Bulldogs, Idris (106 metres, two line breaks and eight tackle busts) was nearly unstoppable, running like a young Willie Mason out wide and close to the try line. Some talent.
Luke Patten (20 runs, 179 metres) was a menace, as was halfback Kimmorley, while Ben Hannant powered to 176 metres.
Who Was Not… No-one under-performed in this classic contest. Although, Michael Ennis may have tried a tad too hard and overplayed a few situations, like throwing a pass forward from dummy-half and kicking dead early in the tackle count.
Matt Cooper sadly looks to have lost several yards of pace and is a shadow of his former representative self. Or he’s playing hurt.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… The Bulldogs’ fans vented their anger at Clark’s no-try ruling by throwing bottles onto the ground as Luke Patten and Brett Kimmorley waved their hands to calm them. Luckily they were all empty plastic ones.
Twice the Dragons died with the ball on the sixth tackle within metres of their opponents’ line with no clue as to what to do or plan for a repeat set. They’ll need to work on that.
In the 22nd minute Darius Boyd appeared to be hit high by a swinging arm from Bulldogs back-rower Gary Warburton. Boyd stayed down, the incident was reviewed… and no penalty given. Geez, some blokes have been put on report this season for less…
Refs Watch… Tony Archer should have applied common sense instead of the letter of the law in penalising Beau Scott for running after being “tackled”. Just send the guy back to the mark and play on. A penalty is far too harsh a disadvantage for what was clearly a moment of confusion.
At least video ref Steve Clark was consistent in his rulings – the precedent for his controversial call on Eastwood was set in the 50th minute when a seemingly innocuous run by Michael Weyman was called up for a shepherd. There didn’t appear any way the Bulldogs defence was impeded. They weren’t even five metres from the play.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Michael Weyman (Dragons): measure this man up for a Blues jersey; 2 points – Jamal Idris (Bulldogs): Doubt he’ll ever play another game of Toyota Cup after this; 1 point – Ben Hornby (Dragons): Played with his spark of old.
Dragons 20 (M Weynan, B Creagh, J Poore tries; J Soward 4 goals) def Bulldogs 18 (B Hannant, J Idris, B Kimmorley tries; H El Masri 3 goals) at WIN Jubilee Oval. Crowd: 18,415.