Dragons fire up but miss top four

Round 26
Sydney Roosters 16 v St George Illawarra Dragons 36
at Sydney Cricket Ground
Referee: Russell Smith

Match Summary:

The St George Illawarra Dragons have come back from a first half deficit to comprehensively defeat the Sydney Roosters 36-16 at the Sydney Cricket Ground tonight.

The victory however, was not enough to secure the Dragons a top four home finals berth. Despite their 30-20 loss to the Storm in Melbourne tonight, the Manly Sea Eagles maintain fourth spot on the NRL ladder courtesy of a better for-and-against points differential.

Leading 16-4 after 20 minutes, the Roosters dominated the ruck as the Dragons forwards were on the back foot. An intercept try to centre Ryan Cross and a set play for winger Amos Roberts put the home side up by 10-0 after just 10 minutes. Both sides then traded tries with Dragons winger Brett Morris scoring the first of his two in the 14th minute before Roberts bagged his double in the 20th minute.

But it would be the last time the Roosters would trouble the scoreboard. With props Jason Ryles and Luke Bailey leading from the front, the Dragons ran in six more unanswered tries beginning with a try to centre Matt Cooper just before half time.

Trailing 16-8 at the break, Saints narrowed the gap in the 54th minute after a flying Morris leapt high to pull down a cross-field kick from skipper Trent Barrett. Half back Ben Hornby [pictured] also produced a superb kicking game, a feature of the match as he grubbered in for winger Wes Naiqama to score just three minutes later. Hooker Aaron Gorrell's conversion, the first successful Dragons goal of the evening, put the visitors 18-16 in front.

Tries to Naiqama, forward Justin Poore, and a double to fullback Clint Greenshields completed the rout.

The result denies sacked coach Ricky Stuart a winning send off and ends a disappointing season for the Roosters, the 2002 premiers finishing in second last place on the NRL ladder.

The finals bound Dragons will finish the regular season in fifth or sixth position, depending on the result of Sunday's Broncos v Warriors clash.

Sydney Roosters: 16
Tries: Ryan Cross, Amos Roberts(2)
Goals: Craig Fitzgibbon 1/3, Amos Roberts 1/1
St George Illawarra Dragons: 36
Tries: Matt Cooper, Clint Greenshields(2), Wes Naiqama, Brett Morris(2), Justin Poore
Goals: Aaron Gorrell 2/4, Wes Naiqama 2/3

By the Clock:
A good looking crowd coming into the Sydney Cricket Ground for tonight's match. Final match for 2006 for the Roosters looking to send coach Ricky Stuart out on a winning note. Meanwhile Saints are hoping for a cricket score to improve their for-and-against in their quest to nab a top four spot.

Kick off!

5 min: NEWS Still 0-0 with the Roosters enjoying early possession.

6 min: TRY Sydney Roosters
Intercept try to Ryan Cross. Craig Fitzgibbons converts.
Roosters 6-0

10 min: TRY Sydney Roosters
Amos Roberts scores off a set move and the home side goes further ahead. Fitzgibbon unable to convert.
Roosters 10-0

14 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Winger Brett Morris gets the Dragons on the board. Wide conversion unsuccessful.
Roosters 10-4

20 min: TRY Sydney Roosters
Roberts gets a double. Roberts converts his own try.
Roosters 16-4

25 min: NEWS Roosters making plenty of yards as the Dragons are missing too many tackles.

30 min: NEWS Still 16-4 to the Roosters.

32 min: ATTEMPTED PENALTY GOAL Sydney Roosters
Fitzgibbon misses penalty goal from 38m out.
Dragons 36-16

37 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Matt Cooper scores out wide for the Dragons. Aaron Gorrell's conversion attempt unsuccessful.
Roosters 16-8

Half time: Roosters 16-8
Roosters dominating in defence up the middle of the ruck, and then making the yards with the ball in hand. The same again in the second half will most likely see a Roosters victory.
Dragons looking a little shell shocked as they head up the tunnel. They have made some inroads just wide of the ruck but their forwards need to roll up the sleeves.
Still anyone's match but Saints with all the work to do.

Second half underway...

51 min: NEWS Still 16-8, Dragons bomb a try.

54 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Morris gets a double, scoring out wide. Dragons can't buy a goal tonight as conversion attempt is waved away.
Roosters 16-12

57 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Wes Naiqama scores to even it up and Aaron Gorrell converts to put Saints ahead.
Dragons 18-16

61 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Fullback Clint Greenshields scores. Gorrell converts.
Dragons 24-16

67 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Forward Justin Poore scores. Naiqama converts.
Dragons 30-16

79 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Greenshields gets a double. Naiqama converts.
Dragons 36-16

Full time: Dragons 36-16
A comfortable win for the Dragons, coming from behind after the Roosters dominated early on.
Roosters 16-4 up after 20 minutes but were unable to make any further impression on the scoreboard, Saints running away with it in the second half.

Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Ben Hornby (Dragons)
2 - Jason Ryles (Dragons)
1 - Ryan Cross (Roosters)