Burgess injured as Dragons down Souths
The Dragons edged out the Rabbitohs 8-6 in awful conditions at the SCG on Sunday but all the concern post-match was for star South Sydney forward Sam Burgess, who was stretchered from the field with a neck injury.
Burgess ducked his head charging into a tackle in the 52nd minute and there was immediate concern for his health, with a lengthy delay as he was assessed then eventually stretchered off and taken to hospital with a possible neck injury, though very preliminary suggestions were that most of the concern was precautionary.
Driving rain throughout the contest created huge puddles on the field and turned the match into a slog-fest and the Dragons handled the conditions far better throughout, kicking well through Gareth Widdop and Josh McCrone (a late call-up in place of regular halfback Benji Marshall who was out with a hamstring strain) and forcing four goal-line drop outs to none.
Despite an early Dragons penalty goal against Cronulla last week eventually looking like a comically bad decision following a 30-2 trouncing, a brace of penalties in the rain turned into a match-winning move by Red V skipper Widdop, proving the difference in the final wash-up.
An early battle of attrition saw Widdop's first penalty open the scoring in the eighth minute before a smashing Sam Burgess run shortly after scattered the Dragons and set the scene for Hymel Hunt to pass to an unmarked Alex Johnston and a 6-0 lead.
The Dragons levelled up through Jason Nightingale in his 200th game in the 23rd minute when he latched onto a precision cross-field kick from Widdop, who missed the touchline conversion but added yet another penalty goal in the 30th minute.
The Red V dominated both field position and possession for the the half (with 61 per cent of the ball) as Souths conceded seven penalties to four, many of them piggybacking the Dragons out of their own territory, and though the error rate was low by both sides it favoured St George Illawarra 3-1.
The busy boot of the Dragons captain forced back-to-back goal-line drop outs to continue to further skew the possession rate and hem Souths inside their own end but Maguire's men made it to the half-time break without further damage on the scoreboard.
Relentless sheeting rain greeted the teams as they emerged from the sheds and hampered both mobility and visibility.
A grafting half saw plenty of penalties as tempers frayed and no shortage of errors as handling became tricky.
Again Souths were forced to drop out more than their opponents and struggled to get out of their end. The extra energy sapped from them in defence combined with the conditions to stymie their attack.
Both Paul Carter (cannonball) and Kirisome Auva'a (grappling the neck) were placed on report, while bench hooker Damien Cook was taken from the field with concussion having played just 20 minutes.
Souths had few answers in attack when Dragons errors handed them rare opportunities and the Red V's main kickers of Widdop and McCrone helped the side hang on to their 8-6 half-time lead throughout a scoreless second half.
Needing an all-or-nothing play as the final siren sounded with his team in range, Souths skipper Greg Inglis bizarrely opted for an attempted drop-goal but the kick went wide.
St George Illawarra Dragons 8 (Nightingale try; Widdop 2 goals) def South Sydney Rabbitohs 6 (Johnston try; Goodwin goal) at the SCG. Half-time: Dragons 8-6. Crowd: 17,824. On report: Carter, Auva'a