Brad Inger reviews the Round 11 clash between the Dragons and the Warriors at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium; here’s how the match went.
St George Illawarra Dragons 24
Tries: Zac Lomax 2 (1, 51), Cody Ramsey (31), Michael Molo (47)
Goals: Zac Lomax 4 (3, 32, 48, 70)
New Zealand Warriors 18
Tries: Viliami Vailea 2 (10, 34), Shaun Johnson (24), Dallin Watene-Zelaniak (43)
Goals: Reece Walsh (26)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
Before the match got underway, the stadium had a moment’s silence for the late John Raper.
Then the Dragons kicked off and found themselves right in the hunt, with Shaun Johnson dropping the kick. After a few attempts at the Warriors line, Talatau Amone pushed a grubber towards the try line; Euan Aitken failed to ground the ball, which saw Zac Lomax continue his chase and dive on the ball for the first try of the afternoon.
The sides traded sets, with both clubs putting big kicks up in the hopes that they could force an error in the wet weather, but Reece Walsh and Cody Ramsey were up to the task.
St George looked to threaten down the left edge, but Ramsey slipped and slid over the sideline letting the Warriors off the hook with some good field position.
The New Zealand side tried a similar approach going down their left edge, but Adam Pompey was dragged over the sidelines himself.
A handling error by the Dragons saw the Warriors dive on the loose ball; after earning a six again call, the visitors started to threaten the Dragons goal line, with Jazz Tevaga almost getting across in his 100th match. Johnson kicked to the corner on the last tackle, and Dallin Watene-Zeleaniak tapped the ball back inside to Viliami Vailea to score the Warrior’s first try.
Johnson would not be so lucky on the next set, kicking the ball out on the full on the fifth tackle.
The Dragons could not convert that opportunity into points and gave away a penalty when Francis Molo hit Watene-Zeleaniak high; Walsh almost broke through the line but attempted a flick pass which hit Ben Hunt before going over the sidelines. The Dragons used their Captain’s challenge but were unsuccessful.
Walsh was threatening with the ball in hand again, and the Warriors were close to scoring when Johnson put another kick up; Walsh tapped it back, but Ramsey slapped it out of the field of play.
The New Zealand side battered the home side’s goal line and earnt a repeat set when Freddy Lussick darted out of dummy half and kicked into the in-goal before stopping Moses Suli from escaping. An error from Daejarn Asi let the pressure off the Dragons, and Ben Hunt attempted a 40/20, but the bounce did not go his way.
The match looked to settle into another battle in the middle, with both sides trading sets until Tevaga broke the line and ran 20 metres; with the Dragon’s defensive line back peddling, the Warriors looked in control, and Johnson made up for a patchy start, took the line on himself and got across for his first try of the season.
The New Zealand side received another penalty on their next set and put a big kick down the field, putting pressure on Mathew Feagai, but the young winger did well returning the ball, evading and knocking over several defenders.
They completed their set and put another big kick down to Walsh, who defused it. A handling error from Pompey was challenged unsuccessfully by the Warriors, seeing the Dragons get a scrum deep in Warrior’s territory, and moments later, Amone shifted the ball to Ramsey, who crossed the try line untouched.
St George followed the Warrior’s form when Jack De Belin lost possession on the return set; this saw the visitors back in the hunt; Feagai did not claim another Johnson kick to the corner, and Vailea managed to scoop the ball up and score his second try for the day.
The Warriors completed their next set and delivered some strong defence which saw the Dragons make another error through Jack Bird.
The New Zealand side looked sure to score, but Walsh had his kick deflected, and the Dragons attempted a counter attack but time was not on their side as the Warriors scrambled and tackled them as the siren sounded, seeing the visitors go into the sheds with a 14-12 lead.
HALF-TIME: New Zealand Warriors 14 St George Illawarra Dragons 12Embed from Getty Images
The Dragons had a less than stellar start to the second half, giving away a penalty for having a player on the last tackle in front of the kicker.
The Warriors looked strong with the ball in hand and earnt a repeat set after kicking into the in-goal, which Ramsey had to kick over the dead ball line. After a few runs up the middle, the New Zealand side shifted to the right with some quick passes, sending Watene-Zeleaniak over in the corner.
After a solid return set, the Warriors let themselves down, giving away a penalty. Hunt booted the Dragons into the Warrior’s half, and after some strong runs from the pack, they were deep in the Warrior’s RedZone.
After a few half breaks, Hunt handed debutant Michael Molo the ball five metres from the try line, and he did the rest, bulldozing his way over the line.
The Warriors had the next attacking opportunity when Johnson put another kick up. Watene-Zeleaniak tapped it down. It went between a handful of players before the Dragons jumped on it.
The home side quickly shifted the ball out to the right to Ramsey, who found open space, running 40 metres before passing inside to Amone, who was dragged down. Ramsey took advantage of the quick play the ball, darting out to the right edge before sending Lomax over for his second try.
St George looked threatening again a few sets later, kicking on the fourth into open space for Mikaele Ravalawa, but an untimely bounce saw the large winger go to the ground; the ball ended up with Bird on the last and the second rower put a kick through which contacted a Warriors before being regathered by the Michael Molo seeing the home side get a six again call, however the young forward lost possession in the tackle.
The sides traded sets for a spell with some messy plays from both clubs, a wayward pass from Hunt saw the ball go to ground before being knocked over the sideline; the referee called that Hunt touched it before it went out, so the Dragons skipper challenged that decision and was successful with the ball deemed to have contacted Jack Murchie before going out. St George looked in complete control, marching up the field with ease and, after spying an overlap, flung the ball to the left edge where Vailea valiantly made a try saver.
Hunt out his kick through on the fifth tackle, but the Dragons could not convert it into points. There was a bit of a pushing party between Lussick and Lomax, but it was defused quickly.
The New Zealand side had a strong set and looked to have a certain repeat set when Johnson dropped a grubber into the in-goal; Feagai secured the ball but put his side under pressure when he passed to Lomax, the Warriors swamped the centre before both sides created an impromptu scrum as the Dragons pushed their way out of danger.
The home side got their second wind after that brave display and had the Warrior’s defence in tatters with quick dummy-half runs before Amone broke the line and looked to be away, scorching up the field before being caught by Walsh.
The Warriors fullback held onto the leg for too long, giving away a penalty but lucky to not be sent to the bin.
The Dragons extended their lead by two after that penalty and were ready to get back to work with a strong run from Suli, but he lost the ball.
The visitors got themselves back into good field position but made a poor decision from Johnson on the last tackle and saw the Dragons survive. The Warriors were not punished for this mistake and, after defending a set, found space down the left edge until Pompey was tackled over the sideline by Tariq Sims.
The sides went set for set before Pompey found space down the left side again before throwing a no look pass that went over the sideline. The Dragons looked dangerous with some strong runs and, after earning a repeat set, saw the match stopped when Shaun Johnson was hurt in a tackle; when play got underway, Hunt attempted a field goal, but it missed to the right.
Time was running out, and the Warriors created some excitement as they tried to go the field’s length in the final thirty seconds with plenty of passing and offloads, but the Dragons did not panic and eventually stopped the New Zealand side for a well-deserved 24-18 win.
FULL-TIME: St George Illawarra Dragons 24 New Zealand Warriors 18
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Zac Lomax (Dragons), 2 pts – Ben Hunt (Dragons), 1 pt – Shaun Johnson (Warriors)
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