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The St George Illawarra Dragons have defeated the Canterbury Bulldogs 24-14 tonight at Telstra Stadium.
An often uncompromising match that was played on heavy ground, both sides went in hard with the Bulldogs having two players placed on report - Skipper Steven Price being penalised as well as Luke Patten, both for high tackles.
With the wind at their backs, the Bulldogs appeared to be out-muscling the opposition and at half time they were in front 12-6.
But Saints put on a tremendous effort in the second period with Luke Bailey and Shaun Timmins paving the way for halves Trent Barrett and Brett Firman who were increasingly finding room just wide of the ruck.
To add to the Bulldog's woes, Fullback Luke Patten was forced from the field in the 52nd minute, reportedly with an injured left AC joint. Patten may be out for six weeks and the injury places a cloud over his spot in the State of Origin squad.
Additionally, Bulldog's halfback Brent Sherwin was forced limping from the field late in the match.
The Dragons also have a share of injuries with winger Matt Cooper suffering kidney damage and unable to play in the second half following accidental knees from Bulldogs' Jonathan Thurston.
After a week of controversy, the victory couldn't have come at a better time for the Dragons. Media focus was on last weekend's sideline indiscretion when coach Nathan Brown gave team captain Trent Barrett a slap on the face.
After fulltime today, Barrett reportedly approached Brown in the dressing room and amidst laughter, gave his coach three slaps on the cheek. A grinning Brown joined in the joke stating that he was more than happy to 'take it on the chin.'
Saturday 19 April 2003 Telstra Stadium Referee: Shayne Hayne
Scorers: Bulldogs 14 Tries: El Masri 2 Goals: El Masri 3/4 Dragons 24 Tries: Kite, Hornby, Roberts, Barrett Goals: Riddell 3/4, Roberts 1/1
League Unlimited Player of Year 3 - L Bailey (Dragons) 2 - S Timmins (Dragons) 1 - T Barrett (Dragons)
By the clock: Both teams on the field for the first match of the Easter double header. A chilly and brisk night in Sydney following some weekend rain. Bulldogs have a strong breeze at their backs for the first half. KICK OFF!
3 min: TRY - Dragons. Brent Kite goes through a hole and scores 10m in from touch after receiving a short ball from Shaun Timmins. Conversion Mark Riddell successful who has now kicked 14 goals from 14 attempts in 2003. Dragons 6-0
9 min: TRY - Bulldogs. El Masri scores after taking an inside pass from Johnathan Thurston who made the original break down the right flank from half way, courtesy of an overlap. Conversion right in front El Masri. 6-all
16 min: PENALTY GOAL ATTEMPT - First dust-up of the match. Push and shove between Corey Hughes (Bulldogs) and Mark Riddell (Dragons). Hughes threw the first punch... penalty to the Dragons. Riddell misses the his first attempt at goal for 2003 from 35m out and wide. Still 6-all
26 min: TRY - Bulldogs. El Masri. Once again down the right flank with Thurston setting up his winger to score out wide. Conversion El Masri unsuccessful. Bulldogs 10-6
33 min: NEWS - Luke Patten (Bulldogs) on report following swinging arm at the head of halfback Brett Firman (Dragons) who is knocked out. Firman assisted from the field.
37 min: PENALTY GOAL - Bulldogs. Follows penalty against Brent Kite (Dragons) who delivered a high tackle to Bulldogs halfback Brent Sherwin. Successful El Masri. Bulldogs 12-6
HALF TIME: The scoreline a fair indicator in a tough match. Heavy condition underfoot and plenty of feeling going into the tackles. Bulldogs taking the honours for the first forty but Saints will have the wind at their backs in the second half. News from the dressing room is that Dragons halfback, Brett Firman will be returning after the break. Bulldogs 12-6
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
52 min: PENALTY GOAL - Bulldogs. Dragons skipper Trent Barrett is penalised for holding down Thurston. Follows break down field from the Bulldogs and a try was on the cards. Luke Patten being tackled just short of the line - Patten injured and forced from the field. El Masri puts the Bulldogs further ahead, 14-6
NEWS - Bulldogs fullback, Luke Patten has done his left AC joint and will take no further part - should be out for a number of weeks.
62 min: TRY - Dragons. Ben Hornby scores 8m from the posts following a movement which saw Saints running the ball on the last tackle. Firman ran from 30m out and flicked a pass to Barrett who attempted a pass to Hornby on the inside. The ball was knocked down by a Bulldogs players but Hornby was there to pick the dregs and survive the scrutiny of the video ref. Conversion successful Roberts. Bulldogs 14-12
Saints halfback Brett Firman kicks a 40/20 in the next set of six.
68 min: TRY - Dragons. Amos Roberts slides in to pounce on a Brett Firman grubber kick and Saints hit the lead for the second time. Meanwhile, Bulldogs halfback Sherwin has limped off and Saints are going from strength to strength. Conversion successful Riddell. Dragons 18-14
70 min: NEWS - Bulldogs skipper Steven Price is placed on report following a high tackle on Dragons backrower, Lance Thompson who is forced from the field for a number of minutes.
80 min: TRY - Dragons. With the Bulldogs desperately spreading it wide, Barrett intercepts on the 20m line and scores under the sticks. Conversion Riddell. Dragons 24-14
FULL TIME: A dominant second half from the Dragons have defeated the Bulldogs four tries to two and bounce back from last week's dismal showing. The Bulldogs have now lost two on the trot. Plenty of feeling in this game especially in the tackling... some being a tad too high. Some controversy to follow. Dragons 24-14