New Dragons recruit Gareth Widdop inspired his side to a 44-24 victory over the Wests Tigers in front of 19,860 fans at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
- Widdop becomes a leader
- Potter unhappy with Tigers' last-tackle options
- Dragons post-match press conference
- Wests Tigers post-match press conference
In his first official outing in the historic Red V, Widdop had a hand in four of the Dragons' seven tries and kicked a perfect eight goals from eight attempts, prompting Peter Sterling to say: "He thinks he's Johnathan Thurston."
It was the Tigers, however, who garnered all the plaudits early, beating the clock as they raced out to a 12-0 lead after just 10 minutes.
Winger Pat Richards, who has brought a whole new dimension to kick-offs from his lengthy stint in England, crossed with his first touch in the fourth minute, finishing off a simple right side movement created by a James Tedesco cut-out pass. Richards converted his own try for the 6-0 lead.
But if the Tigers' first four-pointer was sentimental, their second was phenomenal.
Dragons winger Brett Morris spilt his lollies on the halfway line and when Liam Fulton picked it up and threw it to James Tedesco on the run, the fullback was under the black dot in an instant and Wests looked like getting their post-Benji Marshall era off to an easy start.
But the youthful Tigers began to lose their concentration, continuously turning the ball over in their own half and inviting the Dragons to come back. And second-rower Tyson Frizell didn't need a second invitation, stampeding over Fulton and his rookie halfback in Luke Brooks in the 14th minute to plant the ball over the line.
The visitors – who will also call ANZ Stadium home this year – regained the 12-point lead five minutes later when skipper Robbie Farah convinced referee Ashley Klein to award a try from dummy half that couldn't be overturned.
A crucial moment came not long after in the 24th, when Widdop's scrumbase partner Michael Witt chipped over the top just inside Tigers territory, causing a heavy collision between Fulton and Tedesco, and ended with Ben Creagh finding space out wide. The Dragons' try was a double blow for the Tigers, who had to watch a concussed Fulton be stretchered off and not return.
The game was well and truly on when Keith Lulia missed a simple tackle to allow Gerard Beale to score for St George Illawarra, and when the Tigers gifted Widdop a further two points via a penalty, their 12-0 lead suddenly became a 20-18 deficit at the main break.
The two sides traded tries early in the second half – the Tigers stood off Widdop as he danced across field and found a willing runner in Witt in the 43rd, while Martin Taupau showed great determination to run over a couple of Dragons defenders close to the line in the 48th.
But the tide turned in the 60th minute Frizell grabbed his second, steaming onto a smart inside ball from Widdop for a 32-24 lead.
The Dragons never looked back after that, piling on the points via easy tries to hooker Mitch Rein in the 65th minute and fullback Adam Quinlan in the 79th that meant they were the most convincing winners of the weekend so far.
Tigers prop Aaron Woods was put on report in the 37th minute for making contact to the head of Brett Morris.
Wests Tigers 24 (Richards, Tedesco, Farah, Taupau tries; Richards 4 goals) defeated by St George-Illawarra 44 (Frizell 2, Creagh, Beale, Witt, Rein, Quinlan tries; Widdop 8 goals). Crowd: 19,860.