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It was a game of two halves. An old clich? but one that rang true in the Dragons and Storm clash. Melbourne eventually won 22-14 but did their best to squander a very comfortable halftime lead.
The Storm played a near perfect first half. Matt Orford in particular continued his great season setting up three of the four Melbourne tries and putting the Dragons well and truly on the back foot. Anyone could?ve been forgiven for thinking it was game, set, match at 22-2 at halftime.
The second half saw a complete role reversal. The Dragons curbed some of their attacking flair from the first 40 and channelled their energy into some tough stuff up the middle. With strong defence and plenty of help from the Storm, St George managed to win the battle for field position.
At the 60 minute mark though the Dragons had failed to turn pressure into points and the Storm had worked their way back into the contest. They finally broke through the Storm defence in the 69th minute when Perenara barged over the line. Blacklock shortly after produced some individual brilliance and the Dragons trailed 22-14 with just 11 minutes on the clock.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, time caught up on them. Their season now is on very shaky ground. They are only a slight mathematical chance of making the finals but even that could be gone by the weekend?s end.
The Storm on the other hand have sealed a spot in the top 8 and now have two more rounds to finish as high as possible with a top 4 finish not being totally out of the question. If they manage to put two halves of football together they will be a genuine premiership threat.
LeagueUnlimited's Player of the Year Awards: 3 - M Orford (Storm) 2 - C Smith (Storm) 1 - B Slater (Storm)
Friday 22 August 2003 7:30 PM WIN Stadium Referee: Tim Mander Video Referee: Stephen Clark
Scorers: DRAGONS 14 Tries: Perenara, Blacklock Goals: Riddell 3/3 STORM 22 Tries: Moala 2, Slater, Sargent Goals: Orford 4/5
By the clock: 0 min: Kickoff! The Late news is that Firman has injured his hamstring so Dean Byrne starts at halfback for the Dragons.
8th min: TRY - Storm. Orford put up a great bomb that tested Blacklock. It proved too difficult for the St George star as he spilled the ball and Moala picked the ball up to score for Melbourne. Orford fails to convert - Storm 4-0.
11th min: PENALTY GOAL - Dragons. The Storm made a mistake from the kickoff and then gave away a penalty right out in front. St George-Illawara opted for a shot at goal and Riddell slotted the two points - Storm 4-2.
15th min: TRY - Storm. Orford sets up another try with a great inside ball to Slater. The young flyer then did the rest of the work running around Blacklock and beating him with pure pace. Orford converts - Storm 10-2.
21st min: NEWS - The Dragons look eager on attack but it could get the better of them as they have already taken a couple of poor options.
26th min: NEWS - The Dragons have dodged a bullet. They absorbed alot of pressure on their own line but came through unscathed thanks to some committed defence and the Storm giving away a penalty while in possession.
29th min: PENALTY GOAL - St George-Illawara gave away a penalty around the 35 metre mark and the Storm opted for a shot at goal. Matt Orford is not known for being a big kicked and he just got it over the crossbar - Storm 12-2.
33rd min: NEWS - The Dragons are playing an expansive brand of football but they're not putting in the hard yards to set any sort of platform. The Storm on the other hand are playing very good football and capitalising on mistakes.
35th min: TRY - Storm. The young Dragons Creagh dropped the ball bringing it out from his own line and Sargent picked it up to score under the posts. Orford converts - 18-2.
39th min: TRY - Storm. After a big break downfield Orford saw an opportunity out wide. He put in a kick to Moala who scored without a Dragons player in sight. Orford fails to convert - Storm 22-2.
Halftime: Its all one way traffic at WIN Stadium tonight as sections of the crowd boo the home team off the field at the break. The Dragons have simply tried to play too expansive. For the Storm its just been a mixture of great football (from Orford in particular) and taking advantage from the Dragons mistakes. Halftime score - Storm 22-2.
41st min: The second half is underway!
46th min: NEWS - Its been all the Dragons in the opening 6 minutes of the second half. The Storm have been camped down on their own line but their defence has held strong so far.
50th min: NEWS - The Dragons are simply on fire in the second half. They haven't been able to get their execution quite right though. In their latest chance Riddell knocked on over the line.
56th min: NEWS - The Storm are losing out in the battle for field position. The Dragons are muscling up on defence and making Melbourne kick deep within their own half.
64th min: TRY - Dragons. It had to come after a mountain of pressure in the second half. The Storm gave away another opportunity in their own half and Perenara barged over the line to score. Riddell converts - Storm 22-8.
69th min: TRY - Dragons. Byrne put a chip through but got taken out of the play. Slater came across for the Storm to take the ball but was beaten by Blacklock who got a boot to it. After some very handy soccer skills the Dragons winger forced the ball for a try. Riddell converts - Storm 22-14.
72nd min: NEWS - All the momentum is with the Dragons now but time could be their biggest enemy.
78th min: NEWS - The Dragons aren't dying wondering but time is going to beat them now. The Storm while having a flat second half have stood up in defence and sealed their spot in the finals.
Fulltime: The Storm played an almost perfect first half but failed to show up in the second. The Dragons season now looks to be over but they are still a mathamatical chance of making the finals. Fulltime score - Storm 22-14.