Saturday, June 21, 2008

Point taken as Dragons deliver

Point taken as Dragons deliver

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Stuart Honeysett and Brent Read | June 21, 2008

IT was hardly their most convincing performance but there were no complaints from St George Illawarra coach Nathan Brown after the Dragons snuck home against Penrith at ANZ Stadium last night.

The Dragons headed into last night's match as favourite but certainly had to fight every inch of the way for the result after trailing the understrength and undermanned Panthers 12-0 at halftime.

It was only a field goal from Dragons' five-eighth Jamie Soward with eight minutes left on the clock that proved to be the difference between the two sides and ensured his team will still finish the weekend in the top eight.

Having now won five in a row and looking a shadow of the team that struggled at the start of the season, Brown said he had learned from recruitment manager Craig Young not to be too critical of how you win games.

"I said to 'Albert' a few weeks ago, winning is good fun" Brown said.

"Albert said 'I learned a long time ago that winning is better than losing.

"He says Albert few words but he gets his point across.

"Obviously to win five in a row is pleasing.

"We definitely would have lost it at the start of the year, that's for sure."

The lacklustre display was not the only concern for the Dragons with NSW captain and centre Mark Gasnier heading straight up the tunnel soon after full-time with a back problem.

It's also a worry for NSW with the Blues side for the State of Origin decider on July 2 to be selected on Tuesday morning.

Gasnier stuggled with a similar injury before Game II.

"Ever since I played with or coached Gaz Gaz he's had minor sorts of back problems," Brown said. "He'll have scans tomorrow."

The Panthers were entitled to feel a little aggrieved after finishing on the wrong end of a 9-6 penalty count and having several decisions go against them from referee Jared Maxwell late in the match.

It started when Penrith lost a scrum feed and had a blown penalty against them after video evidence uncovered that Dragons lock Ben Creagh had lost a ball because of a dangerous throw by rookie Masada Iosefa.

Moments later Penrith backrower Frank Pritchard was penalised for a high tackle on Gasnier even though the video evidence suggested the call was harsh.

Penrith coach Matthew Elliott lamented there had been several inconsistent rulings from Maxwell before suggesting he might not have been the only official at ANZ Stadium to lose his composure.

"We got a penalty against us when Frank Pritchard hit 'gas' on the hand," Elliott said.

"At the end, Junior Moors got hit around the eyeballs. He does not make a call. How does that happen? I do not know.

"I lost it in the box tonight. I had friends who lost it as well."

The match also ended after Penrith was controversially penalised for alleged interference following a long break by fullback Brett Morris Dragons although the replays suggested the decision had been tough.

The result leaves the Panthers stranded in 10th position and in danger of losing touch with the competition if other results go against them over the weekend.

With just over a minute to go and given Penrith stand-in fullback Jarrod Sammut had ended up with the ball, it killed off any hopes the Panthers had of staging one final raid.

Penrith's wretched run with injury continued after Penrith fullback Rhys Wesser was forced off the field with an abdominal tear early in the first half.

It was only last week against the Sydney Roosters that the Panthers lost four players to injury including hooker Luke Priddis (knee), centre Michael Jennings (ankle), prop Tony Puletua (ribs) and Josh Bateman (pectoral).

Wesser's departure was a savage blow, given the Penrith fullback threw a lovely pass for Trent Waterhouse to bust the line and then backed the Panthers' backrower up to score the opening try of the night.

Despite the loss, the Panthers still looked the better side in the opening 40 minutes and took a 12-0 lead into the break after Luke Lewis stepped his way back inside some soft goal-line defence.

The Dragons finally showed what they are capable of soon after play resumed when Jamie Soward Ben Creagh put into a hole and the Dragons lock stepped his way past replacement fullback Jarrod Sammut to plant the ball over the line.

Soward then helped to lock up the scores at 12-all when he chipped over the defence, regathered and then picked up Dragons winger Josh Morris in support who streaked away to score underneath the posts.

St George Illawarra 13 (B Creagh J Morris tries J Soward 2 goals J Soward field goal)

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