It was supposed to be a Grand Final Preview but despite an entertaining first half the result was put to bed early as the Dragons firmed as competition favourites with a big 34 – 14 victory over the Storm at Jubilee Oval Kogarah.
The Dragons came flying out of the gates and as they have done against all comers this season took control of the match early, this resulted in an early penalty goal to Gareth Widdop followed by a try to Euan Aitken after he finished off a nice set play by the Red V.
Another penalty goal to Widdop had the Dragons out to a 10 point lead before the tide turned and Melbourne started to take control of possession, this resulted in their first points of the match through speedy winger Josh Addo-Carr. The Storm seemed to have all the running and momentum and looked to have scored again through Addo-Carr before a controversial decision to disallow the try because of the a penalty in the play the ball to the Storm.
The Dragons survived the Storm onslaught and picked up another penalty goal to lead the game 12-4 at the break, the Storm seemed to have all the momentum going into the second half but Saints came out firing once again and scored early through hooker Cameron McInness which effectively killed off Melbourne’s fight back. Further tries to centres Tim Lafai and another for Aitken put the Red V Army into celebration mode before a couple of late tries to Addo-Carr to complete his hat-trick gave the Storm fans something to cheer for.
In the end the much hyped game of the season produced some sizzling football and controversial moments but the blow out scoreline robbed the match of the close finish we all expected. The Dragons are undoubtedly the Premiership Favourites whilst the Storm despite seemingly back to full flight in the last three weeks still have plenty to work on if they’re going to go ‘back to back’ in season 2018.
Season 2018 has been littered with controversial refereeing decisions with the games’ media and fans being very critical of the performances from the men with the whistle, and they struck again late in the first half disallowing a Melbourne try to Addo-Carr. Melbourne had overcome the early onslaught from Saints and had just scored their first try giving them all the momentum, after a repeat set on the Dragons’ line the Storm seemed to cross for another try, but instead of awarding a try referee Matt Cecchin awarded a penalty to Melbourne instead.
Cecchin explained the play the ball leading up to the try was ‘unacceptable’ due to interference by the Dragons player in the ruck and there for they had to call the play back despite Melbourne scoring in the corner. The Storm were clearly filthy with the decision which was one of two key turning points in the match.
Smith low blow goes unseen
The Addo-Carr no-try was the first key turning point in the match and the second was a play which seemed to go unnoticed at first leading into the Cameron McInness try. Cameron Smith had tackled Saints’ prop Jeremy Latimore about 10 metres out from the Melbourne line, as he usually does Smith was laying all over the tackled player and as Latimore got up to play the ball he seemed to lash out at Smith striking him in the groin area resulting in Smith collapsing to the ground.
Being the only marker and unable to make a tackle Smith laid on the ground as his opposition hooker McInness scooted from dummy half to score an easy try to give St. George a 18-4 lead. This effectively ended the contest as Saints ran away with the game from that point.
When asked after the game about the incident Smith stopped short of accusing Latimore of intentionally striking him in the groin but did say he didn’t think he was in a position to get struck there by accident whilst also claiming he’d never missed a tackled from marker inside his own 10 metre line in his career suggesting if not for the low blow he would have made the tackle on McInness and prevented the try.
Saints go marching on
Despite the couple of controversial moments mentioned above it was clear the best team on the day won, and despite the Storm players and staff identifying those key moments after the game they didn’t blame those incidents for the loss, and nor could they.
Apart from the last 15 minutes of the first half St. George dominated the match and as they have done to all opponents this year they out muscled them and out smarted them. They controlled possession early and as the Storm were forced into giving penalties away to slow them down Widdop took his penalty goals and the Dragons reset themselves off the kickoff and started again.
It was a suffocating performances from the ‘Red and White’ as they did to Melbourne what Melbourne have been doing to others for the last 15 years especially Saints who have had a terrible record against the Storm during that time.
Origin hopefuls standout
With State of Origin just around the corner a game of this magnitude was always going to have plenty of players putting their hands up for an Origin jumper, and for the players who have been mentioned as possible starters they all played out of their skins.
Dragons’ hopefuls Aitken and McInness scored tries and had all round superb matches as they firmed from ‘possibles’ to ‘probables’ for NSW, whilst enforcer Tariq Sims was his usual bullish self as he tormented the Storm play makers all day. Whilst forwards Paul Vaughan and Jack DeBelin got through a ton of work and both ran for over 100 metres.
For the Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr also firmed as a certain starter crossing for three tries as he once again showed his speed and class, Cameron Munster was probably the best Storm player on the day and after listening to Maroons coach Kevin Walters talk on the Sky Sports Big Sports Breakfast will likely pair up in the halves with another Dragon Ben Hunt.
Tries: Aitken 2, McInness, Lafai
Goals: Widdop 9/9
Drop Goals: N/A
Tries: Addo-Carr 3
Goals: Cameron Smith 1/3
Drop Goals: N/A
Dragons: 1 Matthew Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop (c), 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack De Belin, 14 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Reece Robson
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 22 Justin Olam, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ryley Jacks, 8 Christian Welch, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 15 Kenny Bromwich, 13 Dale Finucane, 14 Brandon Smith, 16 Joe Stimson, 17 Sam Kasiano