Dragons trounce depleted Dogs
Dragons back-rower Tyson Frizell was very lucky not to be sent from the field following his careless hit on Bulldogs prop Tim Browne in the Red V's eventual 31-6 win over the Bulldogs.
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Frizell's high swinging arm on Browne came in the very first hit-up following the Bulldogs' only try of the match in the 49th minute.
With momentum well on the side of Des Hasler's men, the game was held up for just under 10 minutes with Frizell lucky to remain on the field, instead placed on report by head referee Ben Cummins.
Thankfully, Browne was not seriously hurt, with Hasler commenting after the game that the prop was "OK and only concussed".
Dragons captain Ben Creagh added his view on the incident, claiming it looked like an unintentional high shot.
"I thought it was accidental. Jack [de Belin] hit him through the middle and he was falling down. It's not in Tyson's game to throw a swinging arm and there was no intent or malice there," Creagh said.
Bulldogs captain Aiden Tolman also weighed in on the hit.
"I didn't see the incident first-hand but I did see the replay and there was a bit of concern for Tim.
"Obviously he was hit in the head and wasn't too well after it. I'm sure the match review committee will deal with it appropriately and that's just the way things happen sometimes.
"I don't think it was intentional and the lower tackle brought him down a bit so it was unlucky that Frizell got him in the head and it wasn't the reason we lost the game - it was the other things we did poorly."
With the scoreline reading just 18-6 at the time, Browne's absence impacted the away side who were on the receiving end of a further two converted tries and a Benji Marshall field goal to see out the game.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor said after the game he was again pleased with his side's defence.
"It was defence that won us the game but scoring some points off the back of it was nice too.
"We spoke a little bit about how we wanted to start the game during the week and the last couple of the weeks the bounce of the ball and the final passes haven't been getting to the right people but we managed to do that today."
The foundations of the Red V's win were built early when Dragons fullback Josh Dugan somehow stopped opposite number Sam Perrett from scoring a try in the third minute of the game.
Only seven minutes later, Dugan crossed for the first try of the afternoon in the 10th minute, holding on to a beautiful cut-out ball from hooker Mitch Rein.
After some nice lead-up work from Marshall, Dugan and Gareth Widdop, the Dragons looked to have gone in again three minutes later through Dylan Farrell though it was disallowed after the centre failed to put the ball down.
It would take a long time but the Dragons went back-to-back in the 34th minute when Marshall went to the line and threw a cut-out for winger Peter Mata'utia – who was a late inclusion in the side for Jason Nightingale – to extend the Red V's lead to 12.
With just two minutes remaining in the half, Marshall's passing prowess was on show again after his short ball hit Dragons back-rower Frizell, who bounced his way over the line for his first try for the year and extended his team's lead to 18 heading into halftime.
The Bulldogs kicked off the second half exactly the way they needed too when centre Josh Morris crossed in the 49th minute. Coming off the pass of Tony Williams on a set play, it was somewhat of a relief for the Dogs who had spent the previous four sets attacking the Dragons' line with no result.
Despite the Bulldogs holding momentum for the most part of the second half, the Dragons were in for their fourth try of the afternoon – soon after Browne was medi-cabbed off the field – when back-rower Joel Thompson, off the back of Widdop's first try assist of the season, pushed his way over the line to make it an 18-point deficit after 58 minutes.
A Marshall field goal in the 67th minute pushed the Dragons' lead out even further before Euan Aitken scored his first ever NRL try four minutes later to seal St George Illawarra's fourth-straight win.
Of concern for both teams though is the health of Browne, Dugan, Morris and Chase Stanley who all ended the game looking worse for wear.
Nightingale's foot injury that surfaced in the warm-up – which rubbed him out before a whistle was blown – is also of concern for Paul McGregor.
St George Illawarra Dragons 31 (Josh Dugan, Peter Mata'utia, Tyson Frizell, Joel Thompson, Euan Aitken Tries; Gareth Widdop 4 Goals; Benji Marshall Field Goal) defeated Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6 (Josh Morris Try; Trent Hodkinson Goal) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 20,273. Half-time: 18-0. On Report: Tyson Frizell (Dragons).