The Dragons have overcome a valiant Bulldogs side 18-16 in a closely fought contest at ANZ Stadium on Monday afternoon.
It was all Dragons early on and they opened the scoring in the 3rd minute when Euan Aitken went over untouched off a Ben Hunt short ball. It was Tariq Sims’ turn just five minutes later when he ran a strong line off Gareth Widdop and crossed the line. Widdop missed both conversions so the score was 8-0 after 10 minutes. It was end-to-end footy before Adam Elliott broke the trend and took advantage of some soft Dragons defence in the 18th minute to make the score 8-6. Nene McDonald then scored in the corner six minutes before half time and the Dragons went into the break with a 14-6 lead.
It was the perfect start to the second half for the Bulldogs as they scored twice in the first 10 minutes to take the lead. First it was Will Hopoate who dived on a Josh Jackson grubber in the 44th minute before Brett Morris scored three minutes later when he put the ball down after Kurt Mann couldn’t handle a Matt Frawley kick to give the Bulldogs a 16-14 lead. Two penalty goals to Widdop in the 56th and 66th minute gave the Dragons a two point lead and they did enough to hold on for an 18-16 victory in front of 21,376 fans at ANZ Stadium.
DRAGONS UNCONVINCING IN TIGHT WIN
After a strong start in which they scored twice in the opening 10 minutes, the Dragons were nowhere near their best for the rest of the match. A couple of simple errors coming out of their own end lead to the Bulldogs’ opening try and their attack never completely came together.
They are currently sitting in top spot on the ladder after this win but they have showed signs of slipping over the last month and coach Paul McGregor will want to get his team back to playing the type of footy that had them pegged as premiership favourites after the opening two months of the season.
LAST TACKLE OPTIONS LET DOWN BULLDOGS ONCE AGAIN
It’s been the story of their season so far but their poor fifth tackle options let the Bulldogs down again today. Their kicking game was questionable at times and two of their three tries came from some soft Dragons defence and an error off a kick.
They would have felt the absence of Kieran Foran on the field but it’s clear the Dogs still have a lot of work to do. They’ve been competitive in almost every game they’ve played this season but unless they fix their biggest problem they won’t be winning too many more games for the rest of the year.
KLEMMER STARS IN LOSING SIDE
After an impressive performance for the Blues on Wednesday night, David Klemmer was the best player on the field for the Bulldogs in the loss against the Dragons. Coming off the bench, Klemmer ran for over 200 metres in 56 minutes, including 67 post contact metres.
Klemmer has been a shining light in an otherwise disappointing season for the Bulldogs and amidst their salary cap dramas they will be hoping they can lock down their star prop long term.
RULE CHANGE MAKES AN IMPACT
After a number of incidents of dummy halves intentionally passing the ball into defending players to milk a penalty, the NRL decided to crack down and rule it a penalty if that same incident were to occur. We saw this new rule come into play when Dragons rake Cameron McInnes threw a pass directly into Josh Jackson.
It was a contentious call as it appeared that Jackson made no real attempt to get out of the way but it was clear that McInnes deliberately passed the ball straight into him. Time will tell whether the rule change will continue to have an impact as the year goes on.
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 16
Tries: Adam Elliott, Will Hopoate, Brett Morris
Goals: Moses Mbye 2/3
Drop Goals: n/a
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 18
Tries: Euan Aitken, Tariq Sims, Nene McDonald
Goals: Gareth Widdop 3/5
Drop Goals: n/a
Canterbury Bulldogs: 1 Moses Mbye, 2 Brett Morris, 3 John Olive, 4 Will Hopoate, 5 Marcelo Montoya, 6 Jeremy Marshall-King, 7 Matt Frawley, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Michael Lichaa, 16 Renouf Toomaga, 11 Josh Jackson, 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13 Adam Elliott Interchange: 10 David Klemmer, 15 Kerrod Holland, 17 Aiden Tolman, 20 Clay Priest
St George Illawarra Dragons: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Nene McDonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 15 Kurt Mann, 6 Gareth Widdop, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack de Belin Interchange: 5 Jason Nightingale, 14 Jeremy Latimore, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 19 Jacob Host