Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
22 hours ago
The St George Illawarra Dragons have continued their dominance over the Brisbane Broncos with a comeback 24-20 victory at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
The Dragons have won their last seven encounters against the Brisbane club, a fact that shouldn't be lost on Broncos coach Wayne Bennett who will be coaching the Dragons next year.
The result puts a further hurdle in the way of Brisbane's aspirations to compete with NRL front runners Melbourne Storm and Manly Sea Eagles for the 2008 premiership.
The Broncos had every reason to think they could break their losing streak against the Dragons after racing away to to 12-0 lead after 19 minutes of play. Better completion rates, possession and field position resulted in tries to fullback Denan Kemp and winger Kaine Manihera. The boot of forward Corey Parker, with one penalty goal and a conversion, added the extras to put the home side two converted tries in front.
But a 'homecoming try' to winger Wendell Sailor in the 34th minute lifted the visitors to a 12-6 half time deficit.
The Dragons continued their comeback with another try to centre Matt Cooper in the 48th minute, locking up the scores at 12-all.
In the 57th minute, the Broncos regained the lead with another penalty goal to Parker.
But the Dragons struck back two minutes later with Mark Gasnier scoring the first of his two tries.
The Broncos launched a number of raids at the Dragons' line, coming close on several occasions. But the Dragons line held firm and with five minutes remaining, and holding a 10 point lead, they appeared to have the match in the bag.
A late Broncos' try however, with just two minutes remaining, put the match on high alert. It was perhaps the best try of the match with Michael Ennis and Darren Lockyer combining in a long range effort to put centre Joel Moon over next to the posts.
But the Dragons were not to be denied, posting a well earned 24-20 victory over their northern rivals.
Match Details St George Illawarra Dragons 24 def Brisbane Broncos 20 Round 23 - Friday August 15th, 2008 7:35pm Venue: Suncorp Stadium Referee: Jared Maxwell Touch Judges: Gerard Sutton, Jeff Younis Video Referee: Phil Cooley Half time: Broncos 12-6 Crowd: 33,237
Brisbane Broncos 20 Tries: Denan Kemp, Kaine Manihera, Joel Moon Goals: Corey Parker (3/4), Michael Ennis (1/1) St George Illawarra Dragons 24 Tries: Wendell Sailor, Matt Cooper, Mark Gasnier (2) Goals: Mark Gasnier (4/4)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Jason Ryles (Dragons) 2 Points: Mark Gasnier (Dragons) 1 Point: Ben Hornby (Dragons)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome to Suncorp Stadium for tonights clash between the Broncos and the Dragons. The Broncos are hoping to keep their top 4 hopes alive, while the Dragons need a win to keep themselves in the top 8 ahead of some strong chasers.
As reported during the week, Brisbane fullback Karmichael Hunt has been ruled out. After suffering a strained calf muscle against the Warriors last weekend, Hunt will be replaced by Denan Kemp. Reece Robinson will take Kemp's spot on the wing. Lock Tonie Carroll has also been sidelined with a hamstring injury. Latest news is that forward Greg Eastwood is also injured with a neck injury and will be replaced by Derrick Watkins on the Broncos bench. Centre Justin Hodges is still suspended. Prop forward Ben Hannant is in doubt but is expected to play.
Meanwhile, the Dragons will be without star five eighth Jamie Soward (back) and fullback Brett Morris (shoulder). Jason Nightingale is likely to switch from wing to fullback while Wendell Sailor comes into the side as winger to front up against his former club. Mid-season recruit Ben Rogers has been named as Soward's replacement and will play his first NRL game since round four, when he was playing for South Sydney.
TEAMS AT KICK OFF: BRONCOS: 1 Denan Kemp 2. Reece Robinson 3. Darius Boyd 4. Joel Moon 5. Kaine Manihera 6. Darren Lockyer 7. Peter Wallace 8. Ben Hannant 9. Michael Ennis 10. Joel Clinton 11. Corey Parker 12. Sam Thaiday 13. David Stagg Interchange: 14. Ashton Sims 16. Nick Kenny 17. David Taylor 18. Derrick Watkins DRAGONS: 2. Jason Nightingale 18. Wendell Sailor 3. Mark Gasnier (c) 4. Matt Cooper 5. Josh Morris 19. Ben Rogers 7. Ben Hornby 8. Dan Hunt 9. Dean Young 10. Jason Ryles 11. Beau Scott 12. Jarrod Saffy 13. Stuart Webb Interchange: 14. Matt Prior 15. Ricky Thorby 16. Kirk Reynoldson 17. Rangi Chase
1 min: Dragons come within a whisker of scoring in the opening encounters with five eighth Ben Rogers making an early bust and Josh Morris crossing before putting a foot into touch.
5 min: Dust up and Broncos get a penalty but plenty of passion from both sides. Broncos will have a shot at goal from easy range.
7 min: PENALTY GOAL Brisbane Broncos Corey Parker from 30m out and almost in front hits the uprights and goes in. Follows penalty against Ryles for a minor high shot on Kemp. Brisbane Broncos 2-0
12 min: NO TRY to the Broncos with the ball beating Michael Ennis to the dead ball line.
15 min: TRY Brisbane Broncos Try to Denan Kemp. Benefit of the doubt following a dodgy looking put down. Great grubber kick from Darren Lockyer from 12m out and Kemp raced through to score under the posts. Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful. Brisbane Broncos 8-0
20 min: Broncos playing some excellent football and a polished performance thus far. Danger signs for the Dragons side that are need to improve their completion rate.
31 min: Sam Thaiday comes within an inch of scoring for the Broncos before losing the ball over the line.
34 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Wendell Sailor leaps high, forces his way over, then slam dunks the ball following a top notch cross-field kick from Rogers. Sideline conversion attempt by Mark Gasnier is successful. Brisbane Broncos 12-6
Half time: Brisbane Broncos 12-6 An entertaining first half with possession favouring the Broncos by around 54%. At one point it was closer to 60% but the Dragons clawed back well to make a contest of it in the final 10 minutes of the half. Broncos completion rate has been superior, and they been backed by a 4-2 penalty count in their favour. Whether or not the try to Sailor will be enough lift the Saints remains to be seen, but it was an indication that the Dell's career is far from from over.
Players coming out... Dragons to restart proceedings... second half underway...
43 min: NO TRY to the Dragons with Rogers touching down under the posts only to be called back for forward pass from Ricky Thorby. Great barging run from Thorby, just before he propelled the ball a yard forward.
48 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Matt Cooper is the try scorer, under the posts after taking a simple inside pass from Ben Hornby which exposes a huge gap from close range. Conversion attempt by Mark Gasnier successful. 12 all
51 min: Penalty to Dragons after Ryles is lifted and almost speared. Ennis the player driving the legs up and over.
57 min: PENALTY GOAL Brisbane Broncos Ridiculous penalty right in front to the Broncos. Ennis colliding with Cooper after a kick and hitting the deck. Hopefully not one of those type of penalties that decides a match. Brisbane Broncos 14-12
59 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Mark Gasnier scores under the posts after a tremendous effort from Hornby hitting the line from 15m out, a quick change of pace creating a half gap and offloading to Gasnier in support. Conversion attempt by Gasnier successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 18-14
64 min: Possible TRY to Dragons. Video ref looking... VERDICT.... TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Gasnier gets double in quick time following a cross-field kick, Gasnier leaping high and winning the contest for the ball. Sideline conversion attempt by Gasnier is a ripper. St George Illawarra Dragons 24-14
70 min: Broncos now with repeat sets at Saints' line.
71 min: A bit of controversy here as the referee appears to have called to the video ref on a Broncos possible try that looked to have a forward pass. Touch judge calls forward, it is forward. Video ref is not allowed to call on forward passes and doesn't want to touch it. Ruling: 'Ref's Call'. Referee Maxwell calls it a knock-on and dodges further embarrassment.
74 min: Broncos still attacking the Saints goal line with repeat sets. We're gearing up for a great finish to this match.
75 min: Possible TRY to Broncos. Video ref looking.... VERDICT... NO TRY. Dragons defence prevails in the corner and get a 20m restart. That should be enough to get them home.
78 min: TRY Brisbane Broncos Its not over yet! Joel Moon scores next to the posts after a sensational play of kick, pass and throw downfield with Ennis and Lockyer featuring. Fantastic try! Conversion attempt by Parker successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 24-20
Full time: Dragons 24-20 Great comeback from St George after being down 12-0 in the first half. Highly entertaining match. Possession evened up in the end, slightly favouring the Dragons. The deciding factor in the second half was the Dragons ability to complete their sets, an area where they let themselves down in the first half. Penalties favour Broncos 9-4. The Dragons continue their dominance over the Broncos with seven wins from their last seven encounters.