Dragons overcome depleted Sea Eagles
A committed Dragons side have made it back-to-back wins after disposing of an out-of-sorts Manly outfit 12-4 in Wollongong on Saturday night.
WATCH: Nightingale puts the Dragons ahead
WATCH: Full match highlights
WATCH: Dragons press conference
WATCH: Sea Eagles press conference
Match stats, scores, highlights
In their first game of the year at WIN Stadium – and 100th game at the historic venue – the home side did their best work in the first half, walking into the sheds with a more than handy 10-0 shutout of the competition heavyweights.
"It came from the energy and the start," said Dragons skipper Jason Nightingale. "We've been talking about our start and we started really well. We completed quite well and defended, especially them coming out of their own end with a lot of energy and our confidence built from that start we've got."
The visitors slowly kicked into gear in the second half, improving their discipline with the ball and then cutting back the deficit to six on Brayden Wiliame's 59th minute chase-down of a Kieran Foran dink into the in-goal.
A reoccurrence of a knee ligament injury saw Josh Starling leave the field in the second half, while the loss of Jamie Lyon (groin), and Feleti Mateo (knee/ankle) both took the sting out of the Sea Eagles' comeback and created more concern for coach Geoff Toovey in the wash-up.
"I had to re-shuffle the backline there a bit, which wasn't helpful. We ran out of interchanges with about 10 to go," Toovey said.
"We just weren't good enough tonight. I thought the Dragons turned up and were really bouncing and they probably carried the ball a bit harder than us and tackled a bit harder than us."
A penalty against Manly in the 69th minute allowed Gareth Widdop to seal the win, despite both teams coming up with one try each.
Wiliame – who was a late inclusion for Steve Matai (elbow) – was initially ruled to have again reduced the lead when he finished off a Cheyse Blair break with six minutes remaining, but was later adjudged by the video referee to have knocked-on in the lead-up.
Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans (concussion) was also pulled off in the closing stages.
It was a more enthusiastic Dragons side that opened the scoring with a gift two points, and then they followed it up with a right-side shift that ended in Jason Nightingale swivelling over six minutes later.
The home side dominated the opening exchanges, completing 14 of their first 15 sets and playing keepaway from the pre-match favourites. Manly didn't get their second use of the ball until the 14th minute mark.
And even when they did get it, the visitors were either out of sync in attack or turned away by a willing Dragons defence. Another Manly penalty in front of the sticks allowed Widdop to kick his team out to a 10-point lead at the main break.
Manly lock Dunamis Lui was put on report in the 22nd minute for a high tackle on Merrin.
St George-Illawarra 12 (Nightingale try; Widdop 4 goals) def. Manly Warringah 4 (Wiliame try) at WIN Stadium, Wollongong. Crowd: 12,087. Halftime: 10-0.