Dragons fullback Emma Tonegato produced a masterclass in attack and defence as the Red V downed the Roosters 16-10 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday.
The Dragons' win was their fourth in five games and they sit at the top of the ladder with a points differential of +56. The second-placed Broncos have a differential of +36 so would need a big win over the Eels on Sunday if they are to deny the Dragons the minor premiership.
Jamie Soward's team got off to a flyer when PNG international Elsie Albert powered across in the eighth minute after taking an inside pass from hooker Keeley Davis.
The Roosters looked to have hit back through Brydie Parker in the 16th minute but the try was disallowed due to obstruction by Yasmin Meakes in the lead-up.
Olivia Higgins also had a chance to post the Roosters' first try but she grounded the ball on the foot of Dragons defender Holli Wheeler and a knock on was ruled.
With two minutes to play in the half it was Tonegato coming up with one of the plays of the season when she cut down a flying Jess Sergis with a magnificent cover tackle to keep the scoreline at 4-0.
Albert too big too strong
The Dragons added tries to Kody House and Tonegato in the space of two minutes early in the second term but missed conversions proved costly as the margin stayed at 12.
Sarah Togatuki's barnstorming try in the 46th minute was converted by Zehara Temara and the Roosters were back within six points.
With the Roosters gaining confidence and creating plenty of chances it was Dragons winger Madison Bartlett who grabbed an intercept and raced 70 metres to give the Red V some breathing space at 16-6.
Togatuki has power and footwork
Despite the best efforts of the Roosters as they felt their season slipping away it was the Dragons holding firm until Isabelle Kelly grabbed a consolation try in the 70th minute.
Among a host of stars for the Dragons centre Page McGregor kept Sergis under control with some solid defensive plays while skipper Kezie Apps showed plenty of courage to run for over 100 metres and make 24 tackles.
Match: Dragons v Roosters
Round 5 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
- Dragons centre Jaime Chapman played just three minutes before being forced off for a HIA which she failed. Skipper Kezie Apps also went for a HIA late in the first half but was cleared.
- Sarah Togatuki left the field for a HIA in the first half and returned to make a whopping 149 metres from 16 runs for the Roosters.
- Elsie Albert was a powerhouse for the Dragons with 185 running metres from 18 runs and six tackle breaks.
- Olivia Kernick and Keilee Joseph were enormous in defence for the Roosters making 66 tackles between them.
Play of the Game
The sight of Roosters superstar Jess Sergis powering down the sideline brought the crowd to its feet with half-time looming and her team in need of a try. Sergis ran 60 metres and looked certain to score until Dragons fullback Emma Tonegato produced the cover tackle of the season to cut her down five metres short of the tryline. Tonegato has enjoyed a superb season in attack for the Red V but it was the Olympic rugby sevens gold medalist's defence coming to the fore at Netstrata Jubilee.
Tonegato with one of the tackles of the season
What They Said
“We probably made it hard for ourselves at times but we have got a pretty special group at the moment who just found a way. We've battled injuries and another concussion today early so that meant our interchange .. I probably got wrong which may have contributed to some fatigue. This is what we came to do, is make the semi-finals, and that preparation starts tonight": Dragons coach Jamie Soward
St George Illawarra Dragons
"We are obviously disappointed, we wanted to win, but I am proud of the girls. We were the better side, definitely. The effort was outstanding, we had three tries disallowed. We all know we needed to win but for me as a coach I was just really proud of how they played. The attack was outstanding and we created a lot of opportunities but it just wasn’t to be": Roosters coach John Strange
The Dragons are headed for the play-offs after a strong season and will enter the semis at Leichhardt Oval in top spot unless the Broncos can produce a big win over Parramatta.
The Roosters have a differential of -15 and need the Broncos to beat the Eels by a big margin or Newcastle to upset the Titans if they are to have any hope of sneaking into the finals.