A dominant first-half display from Blacktown Workers has engineered a tenacious victory, with the Sea Eagles downing the Dragons 20-12 at WIN Stadium on Sunday afternoon (17 June).
Match: Dragons v Sea Eagles
Round 15 -
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Though both teams scored three tries apiece, the radar-like goal-kicking of Jackson Hastings made the difference at the end of the 80 minutes.
Blacktown's forward pack, led by prop Toafofoa Sipley, were fantastic in a powerful performance, while halves Hastings and Cade Cust directed play perfectly.
The result cements the Sea Eagles' place inside the Intrust Super Premiership NSW top eight, lifting them into seventh spot. St George Illawarra remains in fourth position despite the loss.
In a match with plenty at stake for both sides, Blacktown looked ominous from the outset, controlling the middle-third of the field with some bustling carries.
They nearly claimed the opening try in the 6th minute, when Lloyd Perrett came within inches of pouncing on a grubber from Lewis Brown. But the prop couldn't ground the ball under heavy attention from the Dragons' defence, picking up a head knock that saw him forced from the field.
St George Illawarra enjoyed plenty of attacking opportunities during the opening stages but couldn't execute, turning over possession five times in the first 15 minutes.
The Red V eventually got into their groove and seemed to have registered four points when Patrick Herbert stretched out to score. However, the referee ruled a double-movement against the elusive fullback.
Blacktown Workers made the Dragons pay immediately. After a long bust via custodian Jade Anderson, who bounced away from multiple defenders like a pinball, the Sea Eagles received a penalty deep on the attack.
With points at a premium, the visitors didn't hesitate to take the gift two points from the boot of Hastings.
Sipley was rewarded for his fantastic first-half effort with a try under the posts in the 29th minute. The front-rower proved far too powerful for the Dragons as he surged across the line from close range.
Hastings easily converted; the 8-nil score starting to reflect Blacktown's authority on the match.
The Workers had the final say of the half but weren't able to post further points, heading into the sheds crammed with confidence.
And they'd extend their buffer straight after half-time through Hastings. The five-eighth hoisted a bomb into the air that was spilled by Herbert, allowing Hastings to toe the ball ahead and slide into the in-goal to score.
The former Dragons NYC player converted his own try, pushing the Workers' lead to 14-nil.
It took a piece of individual brilliance in the 46th minute from Dragons halfback Darren Nicholls to spark the home side. Nicholls took the line on himself 10 metres out and stepped his way across the stripe. Field shanked the conversion attempt; the deficit remaining 10 points.
St George Illawarra kept its foot on the pedal and ran in for a second try moments later. A smooth backline shift on the left edge gave winger Jordan Pereira the space he needed to record his 13th four-pointer of the season.
Faced with a stiff breeze, Field couldn't add the extras but the Saints were well and truly back in the contest.
The Dragons nearly scored a third try when John Tohi dived for the line in the right-hand corner – but the touch judge spotted a foot on the sideline from the winger.
They wouldn't be denied at the 68th minute mark. Following a strong charge from Herbert, centre Steven Marsters burrowed over from dummy-half to set up an enthralling finish.
Field relinquished the goal-kicking duties to Nicholls but he couldn't find his range either, leaving the Dragons behind by two.
Blacktown finally extinguished the Saints' hopes with five minutes remaining. Tyler Cassel stormed onto a beautiful grubber kick from Cust, scoring under the posts to seal the game.
Hastings continued his unblemished goal-kicking day, giving Blacktown an unassailable eight-point cushion with five minutes to go.
Both teams will relish a break next weekend as representative round takes centre stage.
St George Illawarra is pitted against the third-placed Western Suburbs Magpies when the Intrust Super Premiership NSW resumes, while the Sea Eagles take on the high-flying Panthers.