Dragons cement their place at the top of the ladder

It was a taste of finals footy at Kogarah as the Dragons and the Storm battled to consolidate their places on the ladder. St George Illawarra demonstrated why they deserve their place at the top with a convincing 26-12 win against a determined Melbourne side.

Melbourne started strongly and moved to an early 12-4 lead as Finch, Inglis, Slater and Tomane combined. Finch scored early, and also played a part in the second Melbourne try. Man-of-the-match Jamie Soward will have a case to answer as referee Matt Cecchin did not hesitate to award Inglis a try and a penalty after the video ref bounced one back to him as a Refs Call. Sowards boot made contact with Inglis as he tried to stop the origin star from scoring.

At half time could have gone either way. The forward packs were involved in a very even contest with neither team giving anything away. The only difference between the sides was been the goal kicking. Cameron Smith made his kicks, whilst Soward missied two difficult conversion attempts.

The first half was also marred by a serious injury to Sika Manu in the eleventh minute when his leg was bent awkwardly as he was tackled. Manu was taken to hospital with a suspected leg fracture.

St George started the second half in top gear and never backed off at all. Soward and Sailor combined down the right side for two tries and went within centimetres of combining for a third. The St George efforts in attack were matched in defence as they held the Melbourne side scoreless in the second half.

This was about the best preparation for the finals that either side could ask for. Melbourne lacked that bit of spark in attack - but it was never far away and several times they looked dangerous with Tomane, Slater & Inglis making breaks only to be turned back by the Dragons defenders. A highlight was Ben Creagh chasing down Tomane to save what looked to be a certain try.

The Dragons forwards were outstanding with Weyman and Creagh leading the way. Poore was very strong early. The forwards provided the space for Soward to move and he took every advantage with both long cut out passes and a deft kicking game that kept Melbourne pinned in their own territory for long stretches.

A great game to open the round with and a great game for St George Illwarra fans as their side looks to have a firm grip on the minor premiership.

Match Details
St George Illawarra Dragons 26 def Melbourne Storm 12
Round 21 - Friday July 31st, 2009 07:35pm Venue: WIN Jubilee Oval, Kogarah Referee: Jared Maxwell & Matt Cecchin
Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis & Steve Chiddy
Video Referee: Bill Harrigan Crowd: 16,474 Halftime: St George Illawarra Dragons 8 Melbourne Storm 12

St George Illawarra Dragons 26
Tries: Brett Morris, Wendell Sailor (2), Beau Scott, Jon Green
Field Goals: Jamie Soward (0/1)
Goals: Jamie Soward (3/5)

Melbourne Storm 12
Tries: Brett Finch, Greg Inglis
Goals: Cameron Smith (2/3)

LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Jamie Soward (St George Illawarra) 2 Points: Michael Weyman (St George Illawarra) 1 Point: Ben Creagh (St George Illawarra)

LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Talk about the game as it happens - Dragons v Storm forum discussion - click here!

DRAGONS: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Brett Morris 3. Beau Scott 4. Chase Stanley 5. Wendell Sailor 6. Jamie Soward 7. Ben Hornby (c) 8. Justin Poore 9. Nathan Fien 10. Michael Weyman 11. Dean Young 12. Ben Creagh 13. Neville Costigan Interchange: 14. Dan Hunt 15. Matt Prior 16. Luke Priddis 17. Jarrod Saffy; Reserves: 18. Nick Emmett 21. Jon Green STORM: 1. Billy Slater 2. Steve Turner 3. Will Chambers 4. Greg Inglis 5. Joseph Tomane 6. Brett Finch 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Brett White 9. Cam Smith (c) 10. Jeff Lima 11. Sika Manu 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Dallas Johnson Interchange: 14. Ryan Hinchcliffe 15. Scott Anderson 16. Aiden Tolman 17. Matthew Cross

It's a perfect night for footy at Win Jubilee Oval with a near sell-out crowd expected. It's around 15 degrees and only a slight breeze.

Some late changes for both sides.

Fien & Costigan go to the bench for Saints, with Hunt & Prior coming in and Dean Young moving to hooker.

Ryan Hoffman is not playing tonight. Jeff Lima is also moved to the bench with Anderson taking his place and Hep Cahill coming into the 17.

It's 1st vs 4th in what should be a blockbuster match.

Saints have top form with five straight wins. Melbourne have been patchy away from home lately and start as underdogs.

1 min: We're away as Melbourne kickoff

1 min: Tidy first set - Melbourne run it back from deep in their own territory

3 min: Saints are keeping it tight, Melbourne are playing a bit more expansive even this early as they go set-for-set. Nothing fancy.

5 min: Boyd and Morris combine for a great try.

5 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Morris scores as Turner shows him the sideline. Great leadup work from Boyd. Soward's kick goes across the face as he attempted to convert from the sideline St George Illawarra Dragons 4-0

7 min: Penalty to Saints - they attack from inside Melbourne's half but knock-on on the first tackle. Justin Poore drops it

8 min: Melbourne attack but Morris easily catches a high kick and the Dragons make metres up the middle

11 min: Saints are making decent yards each set and defending well to dominate field position early in the match. Slater is easily cleaning up the kicks as expected

11 min: Sika Manu injured - possible broken leg and the game is halted as they call for the stretcher

12 min: Manu carried off and Saints penalised offside on the next play. Melbourne inside the Dragons 40

12 min: Brett Finch knocks on and the Melbourne attack stalls. Saints run it back out from near their own line.

15 min: Penalty to Melbourne on the last as Cronk is held down too long. Melbourne 10 out from the Saints line

17 min: TRY to Finch as he steps though from 5 metres out

17 min: TRY Melbourne Storm Finch wrong foots Beau Scott to go over for a fairly simple try. Fairly soft try at the end of a set where St George had defended well. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful. Melbourne Storm 6-4

19 min: VIDEO REF - checking for a spectacular try to Inglis after top work from Finch.

19 min: controversy - REFS CALL and Cecchin awards a potential 8 POINT TRY. Sowards boot looks like it made contact with Inglis - hard to see if it was deliberate.

19 min: TRY Melbourne Storm TRY to Inglis with a penalty kick from in front as well. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful. Melbourne Storm 10-4

Smith misses the kick from the sideline, but gets the penalty from in front Melbourne Storm 12-4

24 min: Melbourne back on the attack. Wendell defuses the kick and Saints get a penalty for offside. Restart from the Melbourne 40

26 min: Impressive defence from Melbourne and they get the turnover.

28 min: Errors creeping into the St George game as they turn it over again in an attacking position

30 min: Melbourne restart with a tap on the 20

32 min: Saints on the attacks and they get a penalty. Restart from the Melbourne 20

33 min: TRY to Wendell Sailor

33 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Wendell crosses the line untouched after a fine pass from Soward cuts out two players and is right on target. Soward attempts to convert from the sideline but kicks it wide again. Melbourne Storm 12-8

37 min: Going set for set - Slater is under every kick St George put up

38 min: Boyd is there for every Storm kick as well. Very tight match

40 min: St George hold out Melbourne right on half time as the Storm throw everything at them.

This game could go either way. The forwards are having a very even contest with neither team giving anything away. Both fullbacks are taking everything kicked their way. The first half has seen some brilliance from Soward, Morris, Slater, Finch and Inglis. The difference has been the kicks from Cameron Smith, with Soward missing two difficult conversion attempts. The controversy will be the refs call that Cecchin made in the 20th minute, not only awarding a try but also a penalty from in front of the posts.

41 min: Saints kick off to start the 2nd half

41 min: Melbourne undo the work of a great first set by giving St George a penalty only 10 yards from the St george line

43 min: Slater lets one bounce and the Storm are punished. TRY to St George

43 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Saints regain from a kick, put in a second kick and are rewarded with a try to Beau Scott. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 14-12

46 min: VIDEO REF - another spectacular attempt at a try - this time from Joseph Tremane

46 min: NO TRY - maybe a bit unlucky to not get Benefit of the Doubt. Decision stands and St George run it back from their own line. Making easy metres.

48 min: Saints have the ball in good position following a shallow kick from Cronk and a flying take from Morris

49 min: Melbourne defend well and Slater easily takes the bomb.

51 min: Again the Melbourne defence holds the Dragons out. Saints will get the ball back for another chance to attack the Melbourne line

52 min: Penalty to St George. Still on the attack

53 min: Sailor bundled over the line right in the corner after another great pass from Soward. Melbourne defence holds them out yet again. Impressive stuff.

54 min: Cronk puts one out on the full. Pressure will be back on the Storm defence.

55 min: Melbourne hold them out again. Restart with a tap on the 20

56 min: Big play from Tromane has Saints back on their own line

57 min: St George restart with a tap as Melbourne kick is too deep

59 min: Dragons right on Melbourne line as Tromane fumbles a kick. Scrum to pack

60 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Soward throws another wide, accurate pass to Sailor for a try. These two are combining well - perfect timing & execution again. Kicked right from the sideline. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 20-12

63 min: Soward returns a Finch kick right back into Melbourne territory.

64 min: Amazing tackle from Creagh as Turner runs 70 metres

65 min: Saints turn to defend their line.

65 min: And they hold the Storm out and regain possession

66 min: St George forwards tackling strongly and turning Melbourne around as they run it out from their own 30

68 min: Saints run it out from near their own line

68 min: penalty to saints - Brett White stripping on the 4th tackle.

69 min: Saints attacking inside the Melbourne 20

70 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Jamie Soward keeps the ball alive and makes the final pass for Jon Green to score following a great pass from Hunt to switch the play to the right. Melbourne had no answer. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 26-12

73 min: Melbourne cannot penetrate the defence. St George run it back at around the half-way mark

74 min: Nothing goes right for Melbourne as they drop it on the St George 40

75 min: ATTEMPTED FIELD GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons St George Illawarra Dragons 26-12

76 min: Chambers kicks it dead and St George get a restart from the 20

77 min: Hornby botches a play-the-ball. Melbourne will have the ball right on the half way. They kick on the first and it goes dead in goal.

78 min: The home crowd is singing as the clock counts down

80 min: St George win convincingly to cement their place on top of the ladder.

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