The St George Illawarra Dragons will finish the round in position 1 on the NRL ladder with a 18-16 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs in front of 21,000 fans in a public holiday Monday clash.
The Dragons started the game on fire making 80m in their first set after Cameron McInnes shot out of dummy half and made good metres. The Dragons were dominating possession early on and in just the third minute of action they were able to cross over on the right hand side when some good hands put Euan Aitken through a gaping hole in the Bulldogs defence to score untouched. The Dragons dominance in field position continued and it was looking like it was going to be a long afternoon for the Bulldogs who couldn't make metres in defence whilst letting the Dragons make big metres. The Dragons second try came through Tariq Sims who used his strength to make sure the steeden touched at least part of the ground before being rolled over by Will Hopoate although Matt Cecchin needed the bunker to confirm that he saw the grounding.
The Dragons were looking the goods but the next points came from the Bulldogs ten minutes later when they began to get some momentum which they used to put Adam Elliott through a gap untouched through some very average Dragons defence. Although the Bulldogs were able to bring the gap back to two points, some questionable decision making on the last tackle was handed the ball back to the Dragons in good field position however the Dragons began to cough up the ball and let the Bulldogs back into it.
The Dragons extended their lead just after the half hour mark after they were able to draw the Bulldogs outside backs infield and left Nene McDonald with a chance on the outside of Marcelo Montoya which despite a good effort in cover defence from Montoya, McDonald kept himself in the air long enough to ground the ball and the try was awarded by Steve Chiddy in the Bunker. The conversion from Gareth Widdop was important as it extended the Dragons lead out to 14-6 at the break.
The Bulldogs needed to change their ideas if they wanted to get through the Dragons and that's what they were able to do just five minutes after halftime when off the back of a storming run the play before by Brett Morris out of dummy half, Josh Jackson put a grubber kick in behind the Dragons defensive line and Will Hopoate scored the Bulldogs second try of the afternoon. The Bulldogs then added a second try in a row just three minutes later when Brett Morris got his hands on a ball in the ingoal after a crossfield kick was put down by Kurt Mann.
The Dragons leveled things up in the 56th minute when they had an easy shot at two points after Clay Priest gave a Dragons player an unwanted face massage in a tackle. The most controversial moment of the game a few minutes later when Cameron McInnes was the first player to be penalised for deliberately throwing a pass from dummy half into a Bulldogs player who had rolled away from the tackle which on replays looked a touch harsh given the intended direction of the pass and where the Dragons playmaker was standing.
The final scoring play came with just under fifteen minutes to play when Aaron Woods put a late hit on James Graham after he passed the ball and Gareth Widdop shot for another easy two points which
was ultimately the difference in scores. The Bulldogs had a late chance forcing a dropout and then getting a scrum with five seconds left but in the end the Dragons survived.
Next weekend, the Dragons will play host to Manly at WIN Stadium whilst the Bulldogs return to Belmore hosting the Titans next Saturday afternoon.