A frantic and exciting game saw the St. George Illawarra Dragons win against a gallant Manly Sea Eagles at WIN Stadium
A match where both sides were coming off a third straight win after losing their opening games, the Dragons and Sea Eagles were in for a hard fought contest. A highly physical start with two colossal forward packs clashing it was intense with errors creeping in after the fact. Pressure on the Manly line for a couple of sets had the home side opt for a penalty conversion and lead 2-0, a towering bomb then proceeded a set after from Corey Norman to have Brendan Elliot knock on just 10 metres out from his line to allow Dragons another set. The previous set in the attacking zone on Manly’s line had Ben Hunt see no fullback behind the defence to then kick through for Matt Dufty whose speed beat the cover defence allowing the first try of the night leading then by 8-0 after 18 minutes. Quality field possession contested back and forth with both sides trying to dominate, the Sea Eagles gaining momentum to force goal-line dropouts. In next set, some lovely work on the left side channel had Manase Fainu close to the line pass to Daly Cherry-Evans who serviced the ball on for Brad Parker to cross over and go to 8-4 lead in the 35th minute.
Set for set each side was battering one another which was turning into an instant classic between Manly and the Dragons. Penalties increased with the home side fatiguing against an exuberant Sea Eagles which allowed them to force the Dragons 5th goal line dropout, off the back of a run by Fainu he produced a fast play of the ball for Corey Waddell to then tunnel ball to Cherry-Evans who gathered while crashing over for a 10-8 lead in the 60th minute. Holding on for much of the last quarter of the game the Dragons hit back with strong runs and ball control which in the dying minutes of the match Hunt was able to grubber kick across field to his right and allow Mikaele Ravalawa to gather and score in a thrilling conclusion to win 12-10 at WIN Stadium.
DRAGONS SINK SEA EAGLES LATE
St. George Illawarra left it late to finish the game as winners with much of the match being under pressure. A tussling affair the Dragons were put to the test with an energetic Manly outfit coming to Wollongong to upset their run of wins to extend their own which was seeming the case as they were leading 10-8 with 20 minutes left and very much in control. A late flurry of pressure on the Sea Eagles line accumulated and a lovely low grubber kick by Ben Hunt slipped past 3 players to have winger Ravalawa grab the ball and dive over for his fourth try in as many games and secure Dragons fourth win in a row.
This match had it all with huge forwards battling it out for dominance in the middle of the park while the outside backs punching it with their line speed to help out of their ends. Repeat sets were a theme of this match with both sides playmakers producing a total of 8 goal line dropouts with the kicking games producing high-pressure situations from bombs and grubbers which were enjoyable to watch.
CONTROVERSY AT END
A match which had many decisions for referees to make it was done at a high level for most of the fixture with many of the calls correctly made. In the last moments of the clash after Manly had retained the ball after a short kick-off to try to clinch the game at the death. It was then a kick from Cherry-Evans across to his right side edge which had a player stopped from contesting for the ball through Rueben Garrick by Tim Lafai which had the ball collected by Pereira in the end. A call that was needed to be made at the time either from the on-field referees or the Bunker did not come when it was a blatant escort penalty that could’ve seen the match go to golden point.
QLD HALVES BATTLE
One of the key battles of the game was between current Qld halfback Cherry-Evans and former to him Hunt who duelled in the match to show selectors who is in the better form currently but also who had the wood over the other early in the season. Hunt produced two try assists which included the winning four-pointer and two forced dropouts which mounted the pressure early for the opposition. Cherry-Evans in a losing outfit scored a try and produced a try assist with over 350 kick metres to nearly lead his side to a tough upset win. Kevin Walters will no doubt be pleased after seeing both halves showing great performances, however, it would seem the current halfback and potential captain for Qld could be ahead still with more consistency only weeks left before origin.
Tries: Dufty, Ravalawa
Goals: Lafai 2/5
SEA EAGLES 10
Tries: Parker, Cherry-Evans
Goals: Cherry-Evans 1/2
Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Blake Lawrie 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Zac Lomax 16. Jacob Host 17. Luciano Leilua
Sea Eagles: 1. Brendan Elliott 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Moses Suli 4. Brad Parker 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kane Elgey 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Manase Fainu 15. Jack Gosiewski 16. Corey Waddell 17. Toafofoa Sipley 20. Morgan Boyle