The revitalised St George Illawarra Dragons looked to pick up a third win on the bounce as they faced the in-form Sydney Roosters, who were missing both Josh Morris and James Tedesco.
It didn’t take long for the Roosters to camp inside the Dragons half and nearly scored in their first attacking set. Flanagan’s dribbled kick through was dotted down by Matt Dufty for a goal-line drop-out just a second before Angus Crichton grounded the ball.
Moments later, on the fourth tackle after the drop-out, Sydney spread the ball out to Brett Morris, who in the tackle of Zac Lomax bounced onto the line to score.
Just a few minutes later, in an attempt to stop Jason Saab, Victor Radley looked to pick up a serious knee injury after it buckled beneath the loose-forward and would not return from the locker room, after confirmation of a torn ACL.
The next ten minutes were level between the two sides, and in the 15th minute Mikaele Ravalawa came within centimetres of the line, despite the presence of four Roosters defenders.
After keeping the Dragons out, the Roosters went straight upfield, as Joseph Manu, at full-back kicked up into the corner, regathered his own kick, and spectacularly flicked the ball behind his back to Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who walked over to score.
Straight from the kick-off, the Dragons forced a goal-line drop-out after Luke Keary failed to control the ball, but the fifth tackle play was poor once again.
The injury woes continued for the reigning premiers, as Sam Verrills stepped off his right foot went down in a heap, despite not being touched. He also tore his ACL, as the Roosters dropped down to 15 players for the remaining hour.
St George were applying pressure on the Roosters, and after Matt Dufty took the ball to the line, he threw a bullet pass to Ravalawa, who raced past Ryan Hall, who was in no-mans land, to make it 10-4 with 25 minutes gone.
Minutes later, the Dragons crossed for a second, as Dufty once again, attacked the line on the right-hand edge, flashed a pass to Zac Lomax, who juggled the ball, but regained just seconds before he was clattered by Joseph Manu but managed to ground the ball.
Lomax converted his own try to level the scores.
With just five minutes to go until the break, the Dragons found themselves deep inside the Roosters half once again.
This time, Corey Norman’s kick was tapped by Saab, which looked to bounce into touch. However, Lomax slapped the ball back into play after it didn’t hit the touchline, into the arms of Frizell to slide over, unfortunately, the ball was knocked on by the Dragons captain.
If Frizell did score, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as Lomac stepped on the touchline in his attempt to slap the ball back, so the Roosters started with a scrum ten-metres from their own line.
HALF-TIME: Sydney Roosters 10-10 St George Illawarra Dragons
The first five minutes of the second-half was hectic with both sides playing free-flowing football.
Brett Morris made a break down the left-hand edge, after just once tackle, and his kick inside was collected by Luke Keary, who offloaded off the floor to Kyle Flanagan to score.
Unfortunately, Morris was in an offside position from the play-the-ball and the try was disallowed as Morris was involved in the play.
Due to Morris being offside, the Dragons won a penalty, and Lomax converted the penalty to take a two-point lead with just over half an hour remaining.
Minutes later, the Roosters took the lead once again, as Jason Saab sprinted up too early, which allowed Luke Keary to kick in behind for Morris who collected and scored.
The Roosters, with just a two-point lead, were determined to pick up the victory and Sio Taukeiaho looked to crash over. Luckily for the Dragons, Jackson Ford got himself underneath the big prop-forward to keep the home side insight.
With 15 minutes left, the Roosters finally broke through, as Luke Keary saw a huge gap in the middle of the Dragons defensive line and to score one of the easiest tries he’ll ever score.
With the Roosters leading 20-12, the next try was important, with just over five minutes left, and the Dragons nearly crossed as Zac Lomax claimed Corey Normans kick, but was wrapped up by his opposite number Morris.
Morris then finished the game off, as he picked up his hat-trick try.
Luke Keary once again took hold of the ball, and his kick was inch-perfect for the centre, who outjumped Saab to pick up the victory for Sydney and his 10th career hat-trick.
The Dragons looked to pick up a consolation try towards the end of the game, but the Roosters held out and made it five wins on the bounce since the restart.
FULL-TIME: Sydney Roosters 26-12 St George Illawarra Dragons
Manu, Tupou, B. Morris, Aubusson, Hall, Keary, Flanagan, Waerea-Hargreaves, Verrills, Taukeiaho, Cordner, Crichton, Radley
Interchanges: Friend, Liu, Collins, Tupouniua
Tries: Morris (3), Waerea-Hargreaves, Keary
Goals: Flanagan (3/5)
St George Illawarra Dragons
Dufty, Saab, Aitken, Lomax, Ravalawa, Norman, Clune, Lawrie, McInnes, Vaughan, Frizell, Faimaono, Merrin
Interchanges: Hunt, Kerr, Ford, Sims
Tries: Ravalawa, Lomax
Goals: Lomax (2/3)
Referee: G. Atkins
Touch Judges: D. Munro, T. Roby
Video Referee: B. Scott
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)