2023 NRL Round 21: Dragons 18, Tigers 14

St George Illawarra won the game being dubbed the Battle for the Wooden Spoon as they beat the Wests Tigers by 18-14 on Thursday in a game befitting of the nickname.

Result

St George-Illawarra Dragons 18
Tries: (3) Tyrell Sloan 16th; Zac Lomax 22nd; Mikaele Ravalawa 63rd
Goals: (3) Zac Lomax 17th, 23rd, 65th

Wests Tigers 14
Tries: (3) Junior Tupou 9th; 33rd; Apisai Koroisau 39th,
Goals: (1) Brandon Wakeham 40th

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Not much was expected from the two teams that had just one win between them since Round 13 as they headed into this weekend’s Round 21 clash, and they duly delivered very little early on. But the Wests Tigers were the first to get off the mark in the 10th minute through Junior Tupou, who muscled his way to the line despite a loose ball being thrown along the ground in the lead up. The conversion missed, but the Tigers had scored first for a change.

The game went end-to-end without either team threatening too much in the next period, with the most effort being spent in a jersey-grabbing, sideline-hugging melee. That gave the Dragons a penalty close to the Tigers’ line, and they made them pay through Tyrell Sloan, who was on hand for a magnificent backward flick pass from Talatau Amone. The conversion gave the Dragons a 6-4 lead.

St George Illawarra extended their lead just after 20 minutes, with Zac Lomax on hand for the perfect cross-field kick from Ben Hunt, which landed in the middle of three Tigers players close to the line. Another easy conversion made it 12-4. Before half-time Mathew Feagai was placed on report for a late high hit on Jahream Bula. Not long after Jack de Belin was also placed on report.

Just before half-time the Tigers got a real leg up when Tyrell Sloan was sent to the sin bin for holding down while the Tigers were attacking the line – and they made the Dragons pay. Within the next set Junior Tupou scored in the corner with Daine Laurie involved in the lead up, and he also made the break which set up the sin bin offence. Just seconds before the half-time siren the Tigers scored again. Tupou made the break down the line and his kick infield landed best for Api Koroisau to score near the posts. That gave the Tigers their first and only conversion of the night too, and they led 14-12 at the break. It was just the Tigers’ third half-time lead this season.

The second half saw just the one try to Mikaele Ravalawa in the 65th minute when he crossed in the corner, after a strong Zac Lomax wrestled his way through bunch of Tigers defenders close to the line, and provided the perfect back-handed flick pass to Ravalawa. Lomax made it 100% for conversions for the night, and it ended up being the difference between the two sides. Although the Tigers scored two of their three tries while Sloan was in the sin bin.

Other than that it was a 40 minute struggle of low quality from two teams desperate not to lose against a wooden spoon rival. It wasn’t through a lack of trying from either side, nor a lack of chances and territory. Both teams could have scored more tries with the ball and territory they had, but alas it was the game most expected and result a lot of people would have predicted.

For St George Illawarra it was their first win in four games, and the points gap and the points difference advantage ahead of the Tigers effectively gives them a two-win advantage with six rounds to play. It was a seventh straight loss for the Tigers, who will rue another winning chance they let slip away in a season where a second consecutive wooden spoon is looming.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTS

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3 – Zac Lomax (Dragons)
2 – Ben Hunt (Dragons)
1 – Junior Tupou (Tigers)

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