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Fulltime score: Round 10 Dragons 34 v Panthers 12
Match summary: The St George Illawarra Dragons have vaulted into the NRL Top 8 after scoring a solid 34-12 victory over a shaky Penrith Panthers team in front of 12,000 fans at WIN Stadium tonight.
Both teams struggled in the first half as a constant flow of errors prevented either side from dominating, although the Dragons were certainly looking like the stronger side. Despite this, the Panthers managed to take an 8-6 lead into the break following an early try to Luke Lewis and a late try to Luke Rooney.
The second half was a completely different story. While the Panthers did step up a gear, the Dragons stepped up about four gears to put the Panthers to the sword with some sparkling attacking play. Matt Cooper nabbed a double, while Dean Young [pictured] stood out for the Dragons with some great line breaks and a smart passing game.
The Panthers did show brief glimpses of form, but couldn't find any sort of consistency to trouble the Dragons. Craig Gower did not deserve to be on a losing team after his performance tonight - and the score would have been considerably worse without his efforts.
Scorers: ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 34 Tries: Cooper 2, Thompson, Gasnier, Barrett, Best Goals: Gorrell 3/4, Gasnier 2/2 PENRITH PANTHERS 12 Tries: Lewis, Rooney, Pomeroy Goals: Campbell 0/3
WIN Stadium Referee: Paul Simpkins Crowd: 12,392
Live commentary: Welcome to WIN Stadium for an enticing clash between the 12th-placed Dragons and the 8th-placed Panthers.
The Panthers will be running with a decent breeze behind them for the first half. No late changes to report for either team, so we're all ready to rock and roll!
0 min: KICKOFF!
2 min: TRY - Panthers Luke Lewis takes a great pass from Craig Gower to cross untouched in the corner. Preston Campbell's conversion is waved away. Dragons 0 Panthers 4
6 min: Luke Priddis (Panthers) has knocked-on from the Dragons restart, but the Panthers are able to hold the Dragons out. Luke Lewis (Panthers) has taken a nasty knock in a tackle.
10 min: TRY - Dragons Lance Thompson dots down in the corner after an amazing passage of attacking play from the Dragons, featuring some sparkling passes and two bombs - even one from Luke Bailey! Mark Gasnier's conversion attempt is a ripper. Dragons 6 Panthers 4
14 min: The Dragons are starting to hit their straps and are putting the Panthers under all sorts of pressure.
20 min: Worrying signs for the Mountain Men here tonight - even though the match is only 20 minutes old, the Panthers are already looking a bit tired. Only Dragons errors are keeping the match close at this stage.
25 min: 40/20 kick by Craig Gower - great chance here for the Panthers.
27 min: Ben Pomeroy (Panthers) is caught on the last tackle just metres away from the try-line.
34 min: The Dragons have had all the ball for the last seven minutes, forcing three consecutive goal-line dropouts.
35 min: Luke Lewis defuses a Barrett bomb, and the Panthers finally have some possession.
37 min: TRY - Panthers Luke Rooney crosses out wide, and somehow the Panthers will survive a horrible first 40 and take a lead into half-time. Preston Campbell misses with the extras. Dragons 6 Panthers 8
40 min: HALF-TIME. The Dragons had one last chance on the Panthers line following a Luke Swain knock-on, but couldn't come up with the goods.
Well, what a strange game this has been so far! The Panthers have managed to steal a 2 point lead when it looked like the Dragons should have been leading by 20+. Errors and penalties are hurting both sides chances, with Luke Priddis already having received a warning for constant off-side infringements.
Luke Bailey, Dean Young & Ben Hornby have been the pick of the Dragons so far, while Craig Gower is having a whopper of a game for the Panthers.
The second half is underway ...
44 min: Both teams have lifted their intensity so far, with some great end-to-end plays.
Video ref is checking a possible Panthers try ...
48 min: NO TRY - Panthers Luke Lewis is ruled held up over the line as the Panthers show some spark, but the Dragons defence holds on.
51 min: TRY - Dragons Mark Gasnier scores a great try, beating several attempted tackles - but a knock-on at dummy half by Shaun Timmins has been missed by the refs in the lead-up play. Aaron Gorrell misses with the conversion attempt. Dragons 10 Panthers 8
58 min: Two different teams seem to have come out of the sheds after half-time. The match has really opened up, with plenty of metres being made by both sides.
60 min: TRY - Dragons Matt Cooper scores from a great Dean Young pass. Young set up the field position himself with a 40-metre break off his own line. Aaron Gorrell lands a crucial conversion. Dragons 16 Panthers 8
Video ref checking a possible Dragons try ...
62 min: NO TRY - Dragons Rhys Wesser drops a Barrett bomb after pressure from Dragons players who are deemed off-side. Aaron Gorrell crossed the line, but the video ref vetoes the try.
64 min: TRY - Dragons No mistake this time as Trent Barrett strolls through a gaping hole and runs 30 metres to score. Aaron Gorrell's kick is another beauty from the touch-line. Dragons 22 Panthers 8
68 min: Frank Pritchard (Panthers) is placed on report for ironing out Nick Youngquest.
Video ref checking another possible Dragons try ...
69 min: TRY - Dragons Colin Best squeezes past Luke Lewis to force a good grubber kick from Trent Barrett. Aaron Gorrell lands another great conversion. Dragons 28 Panthers 8
71 min: TRY - Dragons Matt Cooper grabs his second as the Dragons are now really putting Penrith to the sword. Mark Gasnier slots an easy conversion from in front. Dragons 34 Panthers 8
75 min: Line-breaks are currently 9-3 in the Dragons favour. Crowd figure tonight is 12,392.
79 min: TRY - Panthers Ben Pomeroy grabs a consolation try for the Panthers. Preston Campbell's conversion attempt is a shocker. Dragons 34 Panthers 12
FULL TIME - Dragons 34, Panthers 12 A great second half performance from the Dragons, who stepped up several gears after a lack-lustre first half performance. Penrith (and especially Craig Gower) tried hard, but certainly lacked the spark of their opposition tonight.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - D Young (Dragons) 2 - L Bailey (Dragons) 1 - C Gower (Panthers) -----------------------------------------