Cooper leads Red V to victory
St George Illawarra Dragons prop Mike Cooper scored a try from nowhere, but it was enough to sink the Brisbane Broncos in a tight – albeit memorable – 12-10 victory.
Dragons v Broncos: Five key points
Cooper boosted by family presence
Bennett's Broncos need week off
WATCH: Cooper wins it for the Dragons
WATCH: Full match highlights
WATCH: Dragons press conference
WATCH: Broncos press conference
Match stats, scores, highlights
Receiving an unders ball from Mitch Rein in the 68th minute, Cooper had no right to score with plenty of Broncos in front of him.
Yet the soon-to-be Red V fan-favourite Cooper sniffed out space and busted through three Broncos on a 20 metre burst to the line to send the Dragons home with five consecutive wins.
The Dragons' win also saw them end their opponents' five-game winning streak, joining Brisbane on the top of the Telstra Premiership ladder in the meantime.
Speaking after the game, Dragons coach Paul McGregor said he was pleased by the character his side displayed.
"Defence was the key to the win tonight. Benji was poked in the eye and he had split vision so he didn't take part in the game for 20 minutes there until he could see again," McGregor said.
"We came up with some errors and penalties a few times which was disappointing. They are a good side Brisbane, they turned us away a few times and the boys were frustrated by it so we can learn from tonight but again we are very happy with how the boys are turning up for one another.”
In his post-match press conference, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said he didn't think either side were at their best.
"It was a tough game. I thought both teams were a bit flat and I think it was entertainment personified but it was tough. Both teams gave their best and simply put, we fell two points short."
Though the Broncos tried their hardest to peg back the lead with Andrew McCullough kicking a 40/20 with seven minutes remaining, and the Dragons were handing them every opportunity to do so, the Red V went home victorious – winning their first game against Brisbane in five years, in what was also the Dragons' first win against their Bronco opponents at Kogarah since 2007.
While they went home eventually happy it could've been a completely different story for the home team after an error-riddled first quarter of the game.
Few were surprised when the Red V conceded the first try of the evening in the 16th minute when former Dragon Daniel Vidot crossed out wide following some handy lead-up work from Ben Hunt and Justin Hodges – who despite being named in the centres was running riot from fullback.
A calculated hit from returning back-rower Will Matthews on Broncos prop Sam Thaiday off the proceeding kick-off saw the ball dislodged and after a few sets of attacking Brisbane's line, Dragons winger Eto Nabuli cleaned up a Gareth Widdop grubber to help his side draw level after 22 minutes.
Broncos captain Hodges found himself very lucky to remain on the field too after holding Widdop back from chasing his own grubber in what could've been a double blow for the visitors – though karma came back to bite the Brisbane skipper when he failed to return after the break due to his reoccurring hamstring complaint.
Regardless, a high shot on Dragons fullback Josh Dugan by Alex Glenn saw the Dragons hit the lead in the 28th minute when Widdop kicked a penalty conversion from close range.
Brisbane had their chance to hit the lead two minutes before halftime through Anthony Milford who picked up the scraps from a Peter Mata'utia error. However the video referee pulled it back when Corey Oates was penalised for taking Mata'utia mid-air while he attempted to catch a kick.
A controversial penalty, which saw Dragons centre Dylan Farrell penalised for an apparent high shot on Alex Glenn – who failed to return for the rest of his 150th NRL game after suffering a suspected broken nose and fractured eye socket – gave the Broncos a handsome opportunity to level it up.
However, despite it being from close range, Corey Parker's goal attempt was waved away just 10 minutes into the second half.
Not like it worried the Broncos though as Sam Thaiday ducked his way under the black dot in the 55th minute off the back of a rock-solid last tackle pass from Andrew McCullough, yet it proved not to be enough.
Injury concerns to Glenn, Hodges and Jake Marteto – who was concussed seconds after Thaiday's try – is of concern for both teams.
St George Illawarra Dragons 12 (Eto Nabuli, Mike Cooper Tries; Gareth Widdop 2 Goals) defeated Brisbane Broncos 10 (Daniel Vidot, Sam Thaiday Tries; Anthony Milford Goal). Crowd: 13,029. Half-time: Dragons 6-4. On report: Dylan Farrell (Dragons).