The final game of round nine of the NRL saw us down at the bottom end of the ladder as a struggling St George Illawarra Dragons took on the Manly Sea Eagles, who are doing little better themselves.
The Dragons has Jordan Pereira and Tariq Sims in for Saab and Korbin Sims while Manly had selected Brendan Elliot and Morgan Boyle in place of Fonua-Blake and Funa.
Despite their lower league position, the books favoured the Dragons for the win, but only just on the odds. A close game was promised, but wasn't delivered.
Just under ten minutes had elapsed when Daly Cherry-Evans hit Joel Thompson with a short pass, the big second rower turning his back to the line and powering over from five metres before dropping to the ground. Garrick was unable to add the conversion from a few metres in from the left touchline.
St George responded on twenty-nine when substitute Josh Kerr hit a pass at speed and crashed over in a carbon copy of Thompsons try almost twenty minutes earlier. Zac Lomax added the conversion from the shadow of the uprights and the red vee had a 6-4 lead.
Within three minutes the Dragons turned defence into attack when Lomax intercepted a Cherry-Evans pass on his own thirty, went ten metres and passed outside to Matt Dufty who showed the Manly defence a clean pair of heels to go sixty metres to score. Lomax wasn’t able to add the conversion, his side 10-4 ahead.
Uncharacteristically, Cherry-Evans bombed a late chance and the Sea Eagles went into the interval trailing by six points.
On fifty-two Tyson Frizell was held up over the line by a keen Manly defence.
Manly worries were compounded on fifty-four when Jorge Taufua was sin-binned for ten minutes for obstructing a kick chaser. Dufty kicked the penalty to open an eight-point lead on the scoreboard.
The Dragons sealed the win on sixty after a delightful Lomax back door flick pass went into the hands of Mikaele Ravalawa for the winger to score om the corner. Dufty converted from the touchline for a fourteen-point lead.
Eight minutes from the final hooter Zac Lomax intercepted a pass on halfway, juggled the ball but gathered it in and accelerated downfield to score in the right corner. Lomax was unable to add the conversion from wide on the touchline but with an eighteen point lead and just six minutes remaining the points were safe.
A fifth red vee try came on seventy-eight when Corey Norman picked up an Adam Clune pinpoint kick to score under the sticks. Lomax added the conversion for a final score of 28-4. Into the final minute Euan Aitken was the beneficiary from a Lomax tap back as he took a pass to go over oin the left corner. Lomax kicked his fifth goal of the game after the final hooter for a devastating 34-4 win.
The win lifted the Dragons four places on the ladder from fifteenth to eleventh and within a win of elevation into the top half of the competition. They have halted a run of two consecutive losses but condemned Manly to their third defeat in a row as they drop to tenth, just one place ahead of St George.
St George Illawarra Dragons: Dufty (T), Pereira, Aitken (T), Lomax (T, 5G), Ravalawa (T), Norman (T), Clune, Lawrie, Hunt, Vaughan, Frizell, Sims, McInnes. Subs: Merrin, Kerr (T), Fuimaono, Ford.
Manly Sea Eagles: Elliot, Garrick, Parker, Suli, Funa, Taufua (SB on 58), Cust, Cherry-Evans, Taupau, Levi, Boyle, Thompson (T), Sironen, Trbojevic. Subs: Croker, Gosiewski, Keppie, Paseka.
Referee: Matt Cecchin.
Ground: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney.