The St George Illawarra Dragons earned their first Anzac Day victory in five years over bitter rivals the Roosters in a low-scoring and hard-fought win in awful conditions that featured a half-hour delay due to lightning and hail.
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In captain Ben Creagh's 250th NRL game, all in the Red V, Benji Marshall's pinpoint long kicks and the now-famous red and white defensive muscle allowed the Dragons to scratch out a 14-12 win despite the Roosters hammering their line up until the final moments.
Roosters firebrand Dylan Napa found himself on report twice for two separate high shots while senior enforcer Jared Wearea-Hargreaves had been a surprise inclusion despite a recent pectoral injury – but it wasn't enough to snap the Dragons' momentum.
Their sixth straight win now moves them to outright first place – at least temporarily – on the live ladder, while the Roosters amazingly will finish the weekend outside the top eight.
The Dragons have proved the masters of wet weather football and Marshall's kicking game – after some dusty short kicks early in the piece – proved decisive, repeatedly forcing the Roosters back into their own territory.
The rain had stayed away through all the Anzac Day commemorations, but the sky was looking threatening by kick-off and by the 25-minute mark it was bucketing down, with lightning cracking around the ground and hail starting to fall.
Peter Mata'utia got the visitors on the board before the heavens opened and the horrendous conditions made handling and visibility incredibly difficult.
In driving rain, Mitch Rein capitalised on a Roger Tuivasa-Sheck error near the Roosters line when he jinked from dummy half and pushed his way over.
As Gareth Widdop lined up the kick the referees made the call that play couldn't continue and took the players from the field, resulting in a delay of around half an hour.
After the game both coaches were happy with the decision to suspend play, although Dragons coach Paul McGregor said it probably stalled the roll his side had been on.
"We didn't need the break to start with, I thought we were getting a roll on when we jumped to a 10-nil lead," McGregor said. "That break probably spoiled that roll. When we came back out we started well then we leaked a try through that kick."
When play resumed, a Shaun Kenny-Dowall try – his 100th for the club (the third man to reach the mark for the Tricolours after Billl Mullins and Anthony Minichiello) allowed the home side to go to the reduced half-time break just 10-6 down.
There were a pair of controversial calls – one in favour of each side – shortly after half-time.
First a brilliant Marshall long kick looked to have pulled up just inside the touch-in-goal line, forcing a drop-out when Tupou was tackled in-goal. Replays indicated the ball touched the chalk but the drop-out call was allowed to stand.
Then at the end of that set Dragons centre Dylan Farrell pounced on a Marshall grubber and scored just inside the dead ball line but the play wasn't sent upstairs and was ruled as a 20-metre restart.
A brace of penalty goals from the boot of Widdop allowed the Dragons to extend their lead to 14-6 before Tuivasa-Sheck – who had had an unhappy afternoon in terms of ball handling – stole a try from a quick tap after a penalty to give the Dragons supporters a nervous final 10 minutes.
But despite a late onslaught their defence held true as they clung on for a remarkable sixth straight win.
After the game Roosters coach Trent Robinson lamented his side's inability to win the positional game and deal with Marshall's kicks.
"I thought they kicked really well, we didn't defend their kicks very well, they found a lot of space, then also we didn't execute our kicks and the execution of our plays on the end of that," Robinson said.
St George Illawarra Dragons 14 (Mata'utia, Rein tries; Widdop 3 goals) defeated Sydney Roosters 12 (Kenny-Dowall, Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Maloney 2 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Crowd 35,110. Half-time Dragons 10-6. On report: Dylan Napa.