The St. George Illawarra Dragons have won in a nail biting match at Pepper Stadium with their finals aspirations on the line finishing 16-14 in a intense clash against the Penrith Panthers.
TARIQ SIMS SAVES SEASON
The Sunday afternoon blockbuster between these sides had huge implications towards the Dragons season as well as the order of the teams with one round left til finals. The score being 14-12 with the Panthers leading by 2 and in full control it was a huge play in the 56th minute from front row forward Tariq Sims that sealed the win. The forward with his best game of the season stopped a determined Nathan Cleary when he kick and chased to pull him up short of the line next to the post in the 55th minute. The amazing try save from Sims was then followed with a massive play in the match to catch a steamrolling Dallin Watene Zelzniak and strip the ball from him as he kick returned, Sims then sprinted away with Tyrone Peachey and Panthers winger Josh Mansour in hot pursuit but was not enough to stop a possessed forward from scoring in the corner. The play well and truly changed the momentum and forced the home team to panic for the last quarter of the match, the Dragons side muscling up and applying more pressure to hold off in a exceptional clash ending the seven-game winning streak of the Penrith squad.
PANTHERS ERRORS AND MISSED TACKLES
The Panthers side was their own worst enemy in this match having the chance to move to 5th position they were greeted with a huge task of containing a Dragons side out to keep their finals hopes alive. The Penrith team was in trouble early after a Dylan Edwards knock on close to their line before the away side scored soon to follow, the match was filled with moments where the Panthers needed to control the ball and didn’t. Bad play the balls and knock-ons in the first half escalated once rain began to fall in the second forty minutes, with possession close to the line a lost ball and fumble from halfback Nathan Cleary had Dragons play smart and lock the opposition down their end in the final 5 minutes and win the match. The Panthers finished with 12 errors and 46 missed tackles, a big clash in the next round they will want to be more disciplined if they are to go far into finals.
A decision from the senior leadership group of the Dragons as well as coach McGregor was made when departing fullback and centre Josh Dugan was reportedly missing from the team bus trip to Penrith. Captain Gareth Widdop and his other higher ranked team leaders before their clash against Panthers forced a change in their side after another indiscretion from Dugan which had him cut from the game. The call could have been disastrous and heavily questioned if the Dragons were to lose the match but luckily for them and their fans they were able to slot Kurt Mann from halfback to centre and promote former half Josh McCrone to start.
FINAL ROUND FINISHING
The results at Penrith make the final round of the regular season a do or die situation for more sides. The Dragons winning their next clash will catapult them into finals with their for and against higher than most, having them finish 7th or 8th. If the Dragons are to lose their season will be over and the top 8 will finish with the same sides as it did at the beginning of the round. The Panthers are headed to take on Manly, finishing with a win away and results go their way can finish as high as 5th but with a loss and unfavorable outcomes they could still fall out of the finals. A entertaining finish to the regular year will no doubt have a wild end to set up fantastic playoff matches.
St. George Illawarra Dragons 16 Tries: Vaughan, Dufty, Sims Goals: Widdop 2/3
Penrith Panthers 14
Tries: May, Mansour
Goals: Cleary 3/3