The St George Illawarra Dragons continued their bright start to 2014 with an impressive 31-12 demolition of the New Zealand Warriors at Eden Park this afternoon.
14,392 fans braved the wet and windy conditions as the Dragons ran in five tries to two to claim top spot on the ladder.
The Warriors opened the scoring in the 5th minute when Sam Tomkins strolled over from close range, his first try in the NRL. Shaun Johnson missed the conversion and his side led 4-0.
The Dragons hit back with a try from dummy half to Mitch Rein, converted by Gareth Widdop and the Dragons led 6-4 after 16 minutes.The visitors came close to adding a second when Tyson Frizell scooped up a loose ball following a Sam Williams bomb, but the video referee ruled a Dragons knock on.
The warriors hit the lead after 25 minutes through veteran centre Jerome Ropati, as he slid through the Dragons defence to score out wide. Johnson converted to make it 10-6.
A Johnson penalty goal gave the home side a 12-6 lead at half time in an entertaining clash.
The second half could not have started any worse for the Warriors; in the 43rd minute Sam Tomkins spilled a bomb which was regathered by Dragons fullback Adam Quinlan who scored beside the posts. Widdop’s conversion made it 12-all, then just three minutes later Quinlan turned provider, racing through to collect a deft Widdop grubber before finding Beale who scored to give the Dragons the lead. Widdop’s perfect day with the boot continued and the Dragons led 18-12.
After an hour of play, Dragons winger Brett Morris went close to scoring his 99th career try, putting a foot into touch just before he slid over the try line.
The Warriors were next to go close when Morris spilled the ball in his own in-goal as he tried to run it out, the ball dived on by Ben Henry. After several replays, the video referee ruled that Warriors five eighth Chad Townsend was offside when he tackled Morris.
With 11 minutes remaining and the game in the balance, Morris showed why he is the best winger in the world; Johnson threaded a grubber into the Dragons’ in-goal, and Morris collected the ball millimetres ahead of the oncoming Warriors, raced through the defence and streaked away for a brilliant 100 metre solo effort, putting the Dragons further ahead. Widdop added the conversion to make it 24-12.
Three minutes from full-time Widdop juggled a pass as he drifted to the right, before spinning around and snapping a field goal with his left boot to ice the game for his side, ahead 25-12.
In the 79th minute a Warriors knock on was collected by Kyle Stanley who offloaded to skipper Ben Creagh to scored next to the posts. Widdop converted to give the Dragons the perfect start to the season.
St George Illawarra Dragons 31 (Rein, Quinlan, Beale, Morris, Creagh tries; Widdop 5 goals, field goal) defeated New Zealand Warriors 12 (Tomkins, Ropati tries; Johnson 2 goals) at Eden Park, Auckland.