Craig Cauchi reviews the Dragons first game at Kogarah against the Panthers. Here’s how the game went.
|11th||Try Apisai Koroisau (Penrith)||Penrith 4-0|
|12th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 6-0|
|16th||Try Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 10-0|
|18th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 12-0|
|23rd||Try Matthew Dufty (Dragons)||Penrith 12-4|
|29th||Try Brayden Wiliame (Dragons)||Penrith 12-8|
|30th||Goal Zac Lomax (Dragons)||Penrith 12-10|
|36th||Try Zac Lomax (Dragons)||Dragons 14-12|
|37th||Goal Zac Lomax (Dragons)||Dragons 16-12|
|52nd||Try Brent Naden (Penrith)||Draw 16-16|
|54th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 18-16|
|60th||Try Matt Dufty (Dragons)||Dragons 20-18|
|61st||Goal Zac Lomax (Dragons)||Dragons 22-18|
|64th||Try Corey Norman (Dragons)||Dragons 26-18|
|65th||Goal Zac Lomax (Dragons)||Dragons 28-18|
|69th||Try Viliame Kikau (Penrith)||Dragons 28-22|
|70th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Dragons 28-24|
|71st||Try Stephen Crichton||Draw 28-28|
|72nd||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 30-28|
|79th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 32-28|
Both sides worked through their sets in the opening, which was broken by a penalty to St George. But just like last week, they were thwarted, with Tyson Frizell cut down just short of the line by a terrific tackle from Dean Whare. And whatever advantage the Dragons gained was lost immediately with Penrith marching down field and coming close to scoring. They earned a scrum close to the line and from that set Apisai Koroisau made them pay. The hooker dummied one way, shifted the other, then burrowed over close to the posts. The Dragons invited Penrith back down the danger end and they came away with another try, this time through halfback Nathan Cleary, stepping past flimsy defence on his way to the line. Penrith were gifted with another opportunity, after a silly penalty from Tim Lafai, and were only denied the try after a forward pass was called. Penrith’s forwards dominated through the middle and a simple shift out to the right allowed for Isaah Yeo to break through. With his progress stopped, he threw the ball to his support on the inside, only for Matt Dufty to intercept and run it in for a try. They were soon to cross for a second, with a lovely crafted move down the left, finding Jordan Pereira out in open space, who in turn passed it back on the inside for Brayden Wiliame to do the rest. The Dragons were hanging in through their defence, and it was through their defence that they were able to take the lead. Josh Mansour, with defenders grappling him to the ground, threw the ball out back and right into the path of Tim Lafai, who passed it onto Zac Lomax to cross out wide. And it was only a forward pass that stopped them from extending their lead at halftime.
The second half started the same as the first with both sides getting through their sets and rolling down the field. Penrith had a few opportunities to attack the line but the Dragons line held firm. Brent Naden turned the tide of the second half with two kick chases. The first one earning his side a repeat set and the second a try, through a Nathan Cleary kick that bounced deviously in his direction. The Dragons repelled another set and earned a penalty and found themselves deep in attack. A pass from Hunt to Host, who ran over the advantage line and earned a quick play the ball presented Dufty with the opportunity to use his speed against a retreating defence and score. The Dragons halves combined for the next try, with a banana kick into the centre of the field – that in years previously was for Gareth Widdop – instead this time there was Corey Norman to ground the ball over the line. The Panthers were helped out of their end by some poor discipline and as they came close to crossing in the corner, Mansour threw the ball behind again – this time, the ball ending up in the hands of Kikau, who was too big to stop. And from the next set Penrith crossed again with a fantastic long range try. Cleary slipped the ball on the inside to Crichton and, after receiving it back from Martin, crossed underneath the posts. Penrith were awarded a penalty and opted to take the two to wind the clock down and leave the Dragons with no time to come up with a match winner.
There were plenty of highlights in this match that included five tries from both teams. Penrith had the game won within the first 20 minutes if not for a Matt Dufty intercept sparking the Dragons into the match. But the telling play was a clever piece of work from Nathan Cleary, taking advantage of a Frizell slip, he passed it back onto Crichton to race up the middle of the park and do the rest. Nathan’s control was on show for most of the match, setting up a few tries and scoring some himself. The four point difference at the end of the match came down to his conversions.
St George Illawarra Dragons: 1 Matthew Dufty, 2 Jordan Pereira, 3 Brayden Wiliame, 4 Timoteo Lafai, 5 Zac Lomax, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Isaac Luke, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tyrell Fuimaono, 13 Blake Lawire, 14 Trent Merrin, 15 Josh Kerr, 16 Billy Brittain, 17 Jacob Host
Penrith Panthers: 1 Caleb Aekins, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Brent Naden, 5 Brian To’o, 6 Jarome Luai, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Apisai Koroisau, 10 Zane Tetevano, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 James Fisher-Harris, 14 Stephen Crichton, 15 Billy Burns, 16 Moses Leota, 17 Liam Martin