The St George Illawarra Dragons have put in a fine performance on the eve of the Intrust Super Premiership finals with a tough 26-12 victory over Mounties.
Match: Mounties v Dragons
Round 24 -
Venue: GIO Stadium
The scores see-sawed throughout the match with the lead changing four times in the opening 50 minutes, but a strong second-half from the Dragons ensured a 14th win of the regular season – and a top 2 finish.
Jai Field was outstanding for the Dragons, always posing a threat with his speed and footwork, while Pat Herbert continued his outstanding run of form between fullback and centre. Returning outside back, 2017 NSW Under-18 Player of the Year Zac Lomax, injected himself into the contest throughout the 14-point win.
The Dragons spread their wings in the opening set of the game when Reece Robson weaved his way through the defence for a big run, and Mounties were forced to start from deep inside their half.
It would be Mounties to score first though; Taane Milne forced a dropout with a freakish kick before Reuben Garrick came off the field with a HIA. On the ensuing set of six, Mounties' No.9 Sam Duggan took the ball to the line and quickly popped it to Daniel Roberts, who charged through a small gap to score.
Lomax put his magic touch on the game soon after. After some ‘razzle-dazzle’ Rugby League, Pat Herbert put in a cross-field kick for Lomax, who caught the ball with ease before throwing a perfect flick pass into the chest of John Tohi, who went over untouched.
A sharp right-to-left shift from the Dragons created a hint of space for Steven Masters which was all he needed; the Nicholls-Clune-Field passing combination was absolutely perfect, before the latter took the ball to the line and threw a late pass for the try-scorer who athletically planted the ball down.
On the stroke of half-time, the home side scored a much-needed try thanks to the brute strength and will of Corey Horsburgh, who bumped off one defender and crashed through another to take back the lead for Mounties.
A left-side raid by the Dragons ensured they will take the lead back early in the second half when Herbert cut through the defence with players in motion and bumped the final defender away to score.
The Dragons provided some more magic soon after when Field showed fast feet and threw a brilliant cut-out pass to Lomax, who extended his body in the presence of would-be defenders to put the ball down in the corner.
They almost scored immediately afterwards too when Herbert burned the defence to make a line-break and passed inside to Lomax, but he was brought down by some desperate scramble defence and the Dragons failed to take advantage of the field position on the following plays.
A penalty 40-metres from their attacking goal-line saw Lomax extend the lead to 20-12 with an extra two points, before a 40/20 kick from Nicholls had the Dragons in attacking field position once again.
Another right-to-left shift turned into points for the Dragons, with Field setting up Masters for his second try of the afternoon to seal the two competition points.
Lomax converted the try, taking the second-placed Dragons to the eventual 14-point winning margin.