Brisbane hand Dragons first loss of 2014
Brisbane have handed St George-Illawarra their first loss of the season, dismantling the Dragons 36-20 in front of 10,526 fans in Wollongong on Friday night.
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It was Brisbane's seventh win in a row over the Red V, and their third win from four games this season to announce themselves as early season surprise packets.
The Dragons, meanwhile, will rue some soft tries that ruined what would've been the perfect opening month of the season.
Brisbane led from start to finish, racing out to an early 12-0 lead on the back of consecutive tries to lock Matt Gillett in the opening 10 minutes.
The first came via Ben Barba's seventh minute inside ball to a screaming Dale Copley, who found a sneaky Matt Gillett supporting on the inside.
The Broncos lock found himself in again just three minutes later, this time becoming the recipient of a charitable Brett Morris when the representative winger failed to clean up Gillett's grubber.
And with Corey Parker coolly slotting over both conversions, the Broncos were up by two converted tries before the Dragons could say "first home game in Wollongong".
But the home side did hit back in the 14th minute on a Jason Nightingale special. The former Kiwi representative soared to take an AFL-like "mark" before wrestling his way through three defenders to plant the ball.
Five-eighth Gareth Widdop's attempt hit the post – the third time he's found the timber in three misses this year – leaving the score at 12-4.
The points kept flowing in the 18th minute, this time Sam Thaiday making a simple yet determined run straight through Dragons lock Trent Merrin, who originally turned the ball over to give Brisbane good field position in the first place.
Parker's extras again handed Brisbane a 12-point advantage.
But the Dragons answered once again when centre Gerard Beale produced a neat catch and pass for Morris to score his sixth try of the season, in just four games.
Widdop's conversion reduced the deficit to eight and – despite Morris and Beale almost combining for another try that would've been a contender for best of the season and Daniel Vidot spilling the ball over the line – that's the way it stayed at the break.
It took the Dragons less than a minute to prise open Brisbane's defence in the second half, with centre Dylan Farrell pouring through a gap down the right edge and chipping ahead for winger Jason Nightingale to stun the visitors.
But as the Broncos did throughout the game, they replied with a soft try to forward Todd Lowrie, who strolled over from close range in the 45th minute.
Centre Dale Copley gave Brisbane their biggest lead of the night when he was on the end of two tip-on passes – one each from Thaiday and Parker – to extend the margin to 14 points.
The hosts breathed life into the game when they went 90 metres in two plays, resulting in Beale going over in the left corner in the 65th minute, but Brisbane sealed victory in the 72nd on a right shift set play, Thaiday setting up Ben Hunt to go through untouched.
St George-Illawarra 16 (Nightingale 2, Morris, Beale tries; Widdop 2 goals) defeated by Brisbane 36 (Gillett 2, Thaiday, Lowrie, Copley, Hunt tries; Parker 6 goals). Crowd: 10,526.