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The St George Illawarra Dragons have outlasted a gallant South Sydney Rabbitohs 16-0 in a grinding game in which neither team crossed the line until the 67th minute.
In a willing contest, the Rabbitohs competed with the reigning premiers for the majority of the match before finally cracking under pressure at the backend of game.
Although not at their best with the ball in hand, St George Illawarra were impenetrable in defence, once again confirming their status as the kings of consistency.
Speaking in the press conference after the game, Dragons' coach Wayne Bennett rated Mark Gasnier's performance as his best since returning to the NRL.
"His footwork's back, I think he's starting to beat guys on a much more regular basis. His defence has picked up really well and I couldn't be more happy with his progress," he said.
On the other hand, John Lang was left to lament poor fifth tackle options but he was impressed with the performance of the Rabbitohs as a whole.
"Even though we didn't score any points some of our attack was outstanding and they're (Dragons) an unbelievably resilient side," he said.
Earlier, Dragons' five-eighth Jamie Soward opened the scoring with a penalty goal in the 12th minute, giving his side a 2-nil advantage - a margin that would not change until thirteen minutes from fulltime.
The Rabbitohs had the better of the running in the first half, John Sutton was powerful in the number six jersey while backrower Dave Tyrell went within inches of scoring and was only denied by a great tackle around the legs from Dean Young.
The beginning of the second half saw Jason NIghtingale stride down the touchline in a long range break for no reward before a show of strength from Matt Cooper denied Souths yet again.The St George Illawarra centre produced a herculean effort to pull back Rabbitoh Chris McQueen from above the line in the 55th minute.
South Sydney defence finally cracked when Darius Boyd supported a Cooper bust to touch down for the opening, albeit late, try. Mark Gasnier increased his side's lead with a four-pointer out wide after some great lead up play from Ben Creagh.
The scoring started as it began - a 75th minute Soward penalty goal left the scoreboard at 16-nil at fulltime.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 0 were defeated by St George Illawarra Dragons 16
National Rugby League - Round 6 - Monday April 18, 2011 7:00pm
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Referee: Jared Maxwell and Alan Shortall
Video Referee: Sean Hampstead
Touch Judges: Adam Reid and Clayton Sharpe
Halftime: South Sydney Rabbitohs 0 St George Illawarra Dragons 2
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Ben Creagh
2 Points - Mark Gasnier (1 Try)
1 Point - Trent Merrin
South Sydney Rabbitohs (0)
St George Illawarra Dragons (16)
Tries: Mark Gasnier, Darius Boyd
Conversions: Jamie Soward (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Jamie Soward (2/2)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome to ANZ Stadium in Sydney for tonight's crunch game between South Sydney and St George Illawarra.
I have a feeling the Bunnies will start with a bounce in this one after the news of Michael McGuire heading to Redfern from 2012 onwards. Their challenge, however, will be to maintain the intensity across the 80 minutes against the Dragons - the epitome of consistency.
The Under 20 Toyota Cup finished at 22-all, hopefully first grade goes down to the wire as well!
Souths: As per program.
Dragons: Nathan Fien is out, replaced by Dean Young. Mitchell Rein takes Young's place on the bench while Michael Weyman is returning from a groin injury at the expense of Kyle Stanley.
1 min: Kick off! Rabbitohs get things underway and will run left to right.
2 min: John Sutton breaks the line for Souths in their opening set but he's dragged down by opposite five-eighth Jamie Soward.
5 min: An offload from Mark Gasnier sends Soward through the line but he caught by the cover defence, lively start to the game tonight.
7 min: A long kick from Soward trickles dead by about 50 centimetres to give the Rabbitohs a 20 metre tap.
9 min: Video referee - possible Rabbitohs TRY..
9 min: NO TRY! A great inside pass from Sandow sends Dave Tyrell into a gap, he reaches out at full stretch but a saving tackle from Dean Young prevents him from getting the ball to the line.
12 min: PENALTY GOAL
Dragons PENALTY GOAL
Souths' Roy Asotasi is pinged for laying in the play the ball - Jamie Soward elects to add two points to open the scoring.
St George Illawarra Dragons 2-0
14 min: South Sydney run it on the last but it all goes a bit pear shaped resulting in a cheap turnover on halfway.
16 min: Jason Nightingale strides away from the defence on a kick return but is now down injured after an upending tackle from Michael Crocker - the video referee takes a look and it's on report.
19 min: The Rabbitohs starting to roll forward, a line break from Greg Inglis and a subsequent penalty puts them right on the attack.
19 min: Ahh now the Rabbitohs drop it, typical - so much promise but far too sloppy.
22 min: Souths throw it around like the Harlem Globetrotters but they can't find a way through - solid tryline defence from St. George.
26 min: Darius Boyd forces a repeat set. Now, can Souths defend their line twice in a row?
27 min: A silly offload from Matt Prior is pounced on by Sam Burgess, the Rabbitohs hold on.
31 min: Looking at the run of play, South Sydney appear to be on top so far. Their goal line defence has turned the opposition away a few times and they've made some half breaks as well.
34 min: John Sutton launches the mother of all bombs but Darius Boyd claims it with ease.
36 min: In his return from injury, Michael Weyman is having an immense game in the middle of the field with some heavy tackles.
38 min: Dave Taylor strides away down the flank and passes to Talanoa but the winger is ruled to have stepped into touch as we edge closer to a try-less first half.
Halftime: A Dragons penalty goal was the only scoring play in the first half. Both sides have threatened with half breaks but have been unable to finish off some promising attack. For South Sydney, John Sutton has been dangerous while St George backs Mark Gasnier and Darius Boyd look most likely for their team.
41 min: Alright, second half underway! Who will crack first? In a grinding one like this, it's hard to back against the Dragons but Souths have the ability to pull points from nowhere..
41 min: John Sutton is in some trouble now for Souths but he's back to his feet and will play on.
44 min: The Dragons spread it wide inside their own half and Nightingale speeds away down the wing, he beats Fetuli Talanoa and swerves past Wesser before Talanoa comes again to track him down.
47 min: Brave play from Mark Gasnier, who dives on a ball in traffic to claim it for the Dragons.
49 min: Souths scrambling well on their line! Jon Green goes within inches of scoring for the Dragons but he's denied by a last ditch tackle from Asotasi on the sixth play.
51 min: Fetuli Talanoa knocks on fielding a kick and that could be the invitation St George Illawarra need..
54 min: Perhaps Souths should start thinking double field goal?
55 min: Chris McQueen goes so close for Souths! He was over the try line but suspended in mid-air and then pushed back! Great defence!
59 min: Mitch Rein steps his way towards the line but then his pass doesn't find support, both sides have been amazingly close to scoring but they can't quite get there.
62 min: An absolute brain explosion from Rhys Wesser.. tackle one right on the Dragons line and he decides to grubber dead, they had some momentum too Souths.
65 min: Rhys Wesser redeems himself slightly with a good take under a high Soward kick.
67 min: TRY
The Dragons finally get over the line! A long run from Soward gave field position before they spread it wide to Matt Cooper, who gets past his man, draws in the fullback and sends Darius Boyd in near the posts. Soward converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 8-0
70 min: St George make an error in their own half but that man Rhys Wesser drops it in the next set for the Rabbitohs.
72 min: TRY
Mark Gasnier crosses out wide after some great lead up play from Ben Creagh and a long range break from Brett Morris on the previous tackle. John Lang is filthy on the sideline.. Soward converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 14-0
75 min: PENALTY GOAL
Dragons PENALTY GOAL
Greg Inglis is penalised for taking Ben Hornby high, Jamie Sowards adds an extra two to the margin.
St George Illawarra Dragons 16-0
75 min: Crowd: 22,771
80 min: Mark Gasnier stares off into space at dummy half but forgets about the ball and Souths pounce on it.
80 min: Fulltime: An intriguing game tonight, Souths were gallant in defence but in a grinding game the Dragons are the yardstick and they've again proved it this evening.