Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
5 days ago
Yesterday's 30-28 victory over the Parramatta Eels has brought a new spirit to St George Illawarra according to Dragons skipper, Lance Thompson.
Thompson described the win as, "...tasting a sweeter victory since St George merged with Illawarra in 1999."
It was the first NRL win for new coach, Nathan Brown and the first time the Dragons have defeated the Eels since 1998.
"It's very exciting," Brown said. "It's good to get the monkey off the back."
The result was especially pleasing for Brown who was up against his former coach and mentor, Brian Smith.
A depleted Dragons outfit came back from the brink to defeat Parammatta at WIN Stadium following a breath taking try from fullback Reece Simmmonds two minutes from fulltime.
Parramatta looked in control early on and with the wind at their backs, raced away to a 12-0 lead after just 10 minutes. But Saints came back and at half time held a slim 18-16 lead.
The second half saw some fiery encounters with Eels forward Steve Crouch being placed on report for a high tackle on Saints hooker, Mark Riddell. Three minutes later, Crouch was on report again for a lifting tackle on St George prop Craig Stapleton who was left on the ground with what looked like a dislocated shoulder. He was later diagnosed with a damaged AC joint and will be out for 6-8 weeks.
In the 54th mnute, Kangaroo centre Mark Gasnier showed great determination to bust the defence and run 55 metres, stretching the Dragons lead to 24-16.
But the Eels fought back with tries to Luke Burt and Lee Hopkins and with minutes remaining, held a 28-24 lead - only to see Simmonds score the match winning try.
The Dragons fullback shows tremendous skills to scoop up a speculative pass following a charge up the middle of the ruck from winger Amos Roberts and five eighth, Ben Hornby.
League Unlimited Best players: 3 - Luke Bailey (Dragons) 2 - Mark Gasnier (Dragons) 1 - Brett Hodgson (Eels)
Dragons 30 - Eels 28 Sun 23 March 2003 WIN Stadium Ref: Tim Mander Penalties: Dragons 7-6 Crowd: 13,149
Scorers: Dragons 30 Tries: Hornby, Riddell, Byrne, Gasnier, Simmonds Goals: Riddell 4/4, Byrne 1/2 defeated Eels 28 Tries: Burt 2, Wagon, Moodie, Hopkins Goals: Hodgson 4/4.Burt 0/1