St George Illawarra entered their WIN Stadium clash with Canterbury Bulldogs on a rising trajectory as they sought revenge for their round four thumping that capped a dismal 0-4 start to 2020.
It took the Dragons just one set to open the scores as Corey Norman’s high kick was grabbed by Zac Lomax over the top of Nick Meaney, Lomax then offloaded to Matt Dufty who was chasing on the inside and slid over for a very early lead.
In the eighth minute, St George picked up an easy second as Euan Aitken picked up a short pass from Dufty and broke through dismal tackles from Kerrod Holland and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to race 15-metres to score.
Just before the 15th minute, Lachlan Lewis attempted to kick in behind the Dragons line but his kick was trapped and then gathered by Corey Norman.
He released Lomax, who in turn set Mikaele Ravalawa racing down the right-wing.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Meaney managed to bring the winger to ground, and then the resulting set came to nothing following a knock-on from Tariq Sims.
In the 20th minute, Canterbury found themselves inches from the St George try-line and Jeremy Marshall-King took advantage of the huge gap created by Ben Hunt’s quick line speed to burrow over.
After building some pressure on the Dragons, it wouldn’t take too long for the visitors to equalize, and on the half-hour mark, they did just that.
A midfield scrum move was all it took as the ball was shifted to Meaney, and the full-back attacked the inside shoulder of Ravalawa who was caught in no-mans land and slid over from short range.
Meaney then converted his own try for a two-point lead.
Just minutes later, following a goal-line drop-out, the Bulldogs charged upfield and this time Raymond Faitala-Marine picked up a short ball from and charged through the Dragons middle forwards to extend the lead.
With just two minutes before the break, Kieran Foran was clattered late and high by Tariq Sims, which forced the Canterbury half-back from the field for a Head Injury Assessment.
The Dragons forward remained on the field but was penalised and Meaney converted to make it 10-20 as the half approached.
HALF-TIME: St George Illawarra Dragons 10-20 Canterbury Bulldogs
The Dragons started the brighter of the two sides in the second half, and after camping in the Bulldogs half Ben Hunt dribbled a kick into the corner for Jason Saab.
Unfortunately, the winger couldn’t hold onto the bouncing ball at the 10-point deficit remained.
Having kept the Dragons out for 15 minutes, Canterbury once again found themselves inside the half of the home side.
Cameron McInnes eased the pressure on the Bulldogs further as he was penalised for a ruck infringement, which then allowed Meaney to convert a penalty from in front of the posts to give Canterbury a 12-point lead.
With an hour gone, the game became sloppy with both sides making plenty of errors.
One such error from Christian Crichton allowed the Dragons to get back into the game as he failed the gather the high bomb from Adam Clune.
The loose ball then bounced towards Saab on the left edge, and the young winger found a space to dive over and cut the gap.
The Dragons went close to pulling even closer as an off the cuff fifth-tackle play resulted in Lomax with the ball in hand on the right edge. However, his flick pass couldn’t quite find Ravalawa on the wing and Canterbury to breath once more.
Just minutes later though, Adam Clune made a line break from his own 40-metre line and raced 45 metres before pushing the ball out to Dufty with just Meaney to beat, and the full-back slid over in the corner.
Lomax struck a sweet conversion from the sideline to level up with just over five minutes to go.
With 90 seconds left on the clock, the Bulldogs rolled the dice in their own half to find a winning score.
However, Marcelo Montoya dropped the ball stone-cold on his own 40-metre line and Corey Norman picked up the loose ball and raced away to score the match-winning try.
FULL-TIME: St George Illawarra Dragons 28-22 Canterbury Bulldogs
St George Illawarra Dragons
Dufty, Saab, Aitken, Lomax, Ravalawa, Norman, Clune, Lawrie, Hunt, Vaughan, Frizell, Sims, McInnes
Interchanges: Merrin, Kerr, Fuimaono, Ford
Tries: Dufty (2), Aitken, Saab, Norman
Goals: Lomax (4/5)
Meaney, Watene-Zelezniak, Holland, Montoya, Crichton, Foran, Lewis, Tolman, Marshall-King, Napa, Jackson, Faitala-Mariner, Thompson
Interchanges: Katoa, Sue, To’omaga, Ogden
Tries: Marshall-King, Meaney, Faitala-Mariner
Goals: Meaney (5/5)
Referee: H. Perenara
Touch Judges: K. Badger, L. Kennedy
Video Referee: B. Norrie
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)