The new look Dragons overcame a Warriors comeback to end their Queensland hoodoo with a 28-16 win at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
St George Illawarra winger Mikaele Ravalawa scored a hat-trick of tries, made a try-saving tackle on fellow Fijian Marcello Montoya and carried the ball for a game-high 173 metres from 16 runs.
However, the Dragons were made to work for their win as Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson used a gusty wind in the second-half to pin the opposition down their end.
Ravalawa gets his hat-trick
Johnson produced a 40-20 kick and the Warriors scored from the ensuing set after he put second-rower Eliesa Katoa over to give the New Zealand team a 16-14 lead after they had trailed 12-0 early in the match but the Dragons regained control.
St George Illawarra had six new faces - Jaydn Su'A, Aaron Woods, Moses Suli, Francis Molo, Moses Mbye and Jack Gosiewski - in their side, along with a host of talented youngsters and fans would have liked what they saw.
There was also a lot to like from the Warriors performance and coach Nathan Brown had a number of big name stars on the sideline, including captain Tohu Harris, fullback Reece Walsh and prop Matt Lodge
The win ended a run of nine losses in Queensland for the Dragons.
Match: Warriors v Dragons
Round 1 -
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
- Fiji winger Mikaele Ravalawa opened the scoring in the sixth minute after a cut-out pass from boom fullback Tyrell Sloan that followed a 50-metre kick for touch from halfback Ben Hunt.
Silky Sloan puts Ravalawa over
- Sloan had a second try assist after turning the ball inside for second-rower Jack Bird to make an angled run near the Warriors line and score in the 16th minute.
- Dallin Watene-Zelezniak got the Warriors back into the game when he pounced on his own grubber into the Dragons in-goal to score a 19th minute try after Sloan and Hunt hesitated to knock the ball dead.
DWZ scores a freakish try
- Star playmaker Shaun Johnson sent Josh Curran racing through a hole near the ruck after Jack Gosiewski shot out of the defensive line and the Warriors lock found hooker Wayde Egan in support to score a 31st minute try.
- A 40th minute Zac Lomax penalty goal gave the Dragons a 14-10 halftime lead.
- The Warriors took the ascendency early in the second half with Curran charging down a Hunt kick and toeing the ball ahead before being tackled short and Johnson producing a 40:20 that led to a 49th minute try for Eliesa Katoa.
Curran splits them Egan finishes it
- Johnson put Katoa over for the try with a short pass and appears to be forming a similar combination with the Tonga-born second-rower as he did with Briton Nikora at Cronulla.
SJ lays it on a plate for Katoa
- Ravalawa scored his 40th try in 52 NRL appearances when he powered over Fiji team-mate Marcello Montoya to reclaim the lead for the Dragons midway through the second-half but then spilled the kick-off near his own line.
- The 24-year-old completed his hat-trick of tries in the 68th minute after back-to-back flick passes by Jaydn Su'A and Zac Lomax created just enough space for Ravalawa to force his way over in the right corner.
Ravalawa barges over for his second
- Utility Moses Mbye scored from dummy half to seal the win in the 75th minute after Sloan was tackled just short of the try line.
- Ravalawa and Sloan then combined to bundle Montoya into touch to save a try just two minutes before fulltime.
Play of the game
The Warriors took the lead for the first time early in the second half after Shaun Johnson took advantage of the wind as his back with a 70-metre kick that found touch just before the St George Illawarra goal line. Dragons winger Mikaele Ravalawa tried to stop the kick from going out by stepping over the sideline to tap the bouncing ball into the field of play but it landed on the touchline to give the Warriors possession. Johnson then put second-rower Eliesa Katoa over for a 49th minute try in the following set.
What they said
"For the whole game we had a fair number of errors and we never really quite got our game going. It was quite clear for everyone to see that we want to play a much more positive brand of footy this year and we’re trying to find the balance of when to do it and when not to. We certainly never made the Dragons work hard with the way we controlled the ball": Warriors coach Nathan Brown.
"It feels different and obviously they haven't played a lot of footy together. It's going to take us a while to get into a real groove. The main thing I was just really happy with the way we knuckled down when we were behind": Dragons coach Anthony Griffin.
The Warriors will welcome back star fullback Reece Walsh and prop Matt Lodge for their trip to the Gold Coast next Saturday to face the Titans.
Warriors captain Addin Fonua-Blake faces a nervous wait to learn if he is free to play after being placed on report for a crusher tackle.
Curran charge down
The Dragons host premiers Penrith at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Friday night and coach Anthony Griffin will consider whether to call representative forwards Tariq Sims and George Burgess into the side.
Former Kangaroos prop Aaron Woods limped from the field with a hamstring injury and is in doubt for the match against the Panthers.