Dragons hold on after Souths NRL fightback
Posted on 04/25/20 7:43 PM
St George Illawarra have kept their perfect start to the NRL season, beating South Sydney 16-12.St George Illawarra have maintained their unbeaten start to the NRL season, outlasting a never-say-die South Sydney 16-12 at Jubilee Oval.
Paul McGregor’s side reinforced their status as the competition pacesetters after celebrating Jason Nightingale’s 250th game in style on Friday night with their fifth win on the trot.
Souths looked dead and buried, down 16-2 in the 71st minute, however a couple of pieces of Cody Walker brilliance set up a grandstand finish.
First he scored in the 72nd before throwing a floating cut-out pass for Greg Inglis to cross and reduce the margin to four.
However the Rabbitohs’ No.6 bombed a chance to win the game when he dropped it cold with his side camped on the Dragons’ line with two minutes remaining.
The referees were again dragged into the spotlight when they controversially denied Nene MacDonald a first-half try for an obstruction.
However it mattered little as the Dragons held off a late Souths surge to maintain their standing at the top of the ladder.
Back-rower Tariq Sims was a standout for the Dragons, pulling off a series of big hits, including a bell-ringer on Adam Reynolds which forced the Souths’ halfback from the field for a concussion assessment in the final 10.
Souths were doing well to be down by just six at the break, but the Dragons pressed their advantage when Ben Hunt fired Matt Dufty through a hole with the pocket rocket fullback running 60 metres to score to make it 14-2.
Nightingale had a typically classy outing in his milestone match, coming up with two try-savers in the space of a minute, including a desperate effort to deny Robert Jennings.
The referees were a talking point when MacDonald was controversially denied a 31st minute try which would have given the home side a 12-0 lead.
After being awarded the four-pointer by on-field referee Gavin Badger, the decision was overturned by video review official Steve Chiddy.
The bunker ruled lead runner Sims took out Reynolds in the lead-up but it was Reynolds who made contact with Sims, pushing him away.
MacDonald was superb in the first half but, on three occasions, was denied a chance to score.
The Dragons’ winger was held up by some desperate Souths defence and, 30 seconds later, was bundled into touch just short of the line.
The Dragons eventually took first blood through Euan Aitken in the 19th when he stood up Inglis, who was left clutching at air, and never gave up the lead.
McGregor said they would have lost this kind of match in past years and suggested the Red V had discovered some grit in the off-season.
“We wouldn’t have won that game last year. In fact we didn’t win this game against Souths last year,” McGregor said in reference to the 26-24 loss to Souths in 2017 at the SCG when they let in two tries in the last five minutes.
“It tells me that we’re going in the right places.”
Souths coach Anthony Seibold said his side counted themselves lucky to be in the game at halftime after being on the wrong end of a 60-40 possession split.
“We certainly didn’t get beaten on effort tonight,” Seibold said.
“But we’re not happy with the result, we didn’t get the job done and everyone could see their execution in the tackle wasn’t good enough.
“I’m really proud of the effort but we have to be better to beat the best sides in the comp.”