Leading 18-10 midway through the second half, and the contest still in the balance, Saints ran in two tries in three minutes to take the match away from the young Panthers outfit.
With both teams missing players through injury and State of Origin duties, the match kicked off with the Panthers dominating possession and field position in the opening stages.
But the boot of Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward delivered two tries to the home side against the run of play. Firstly through utility Beau Scott, who gathered the loose ball to score out wide, and then skipper and halfback Ben Hornby who leapt high in tremendous fashion to pull down a bomb and score under the posts. After 16 minutes of play, the depleted Dragons side held a handy 10-0 lead.
A professional foul against Penrith's Masada Iosefa provided the opportunity for a Soward penalty goal late in the first half, and the Dragons held 12-6 lead at the break.
Dragons winger Wendell Sailor was again the entertainer, scoring the first of his two tries in the 42nd minute. At 18-6, the home side looked ready to go on with it. A thigh injury to Jarrod Sammut put Penrith further on the back foot with the star fullback being forced from the field.
But the Panthers still had a wag in the tail with forward Frank Pritchard charging ahead in the 52nd minute to score out wide, making it an 18-10 ball game and putting his team back in the match.
The turning point however, came 10 minutes later with Sailor crossing for his second. Replacement centre Michael Lett snared his first four-pointer of 2009 three minutes later to put the Dragons in the driver's seat, and take the game away from the tiring Penrith side.
St George Illawarra then put the Panthers to the sword, beginning with a well deserved try to Soward in the 73rd minute before bench player Nick Emmett brushed aside some would-be defenders to score right on full time.
The result places the Dragons on top of the NRL ladder pending the outcome of Sunday's Knights vs Bulldogs clash.
Match Details St George Illawarra Dragons 38 def Penrith Panthers10 Round 12 - Friday May 29th, 2009 07:35pm Venue: WIN Stadium Referee: Jason Robinson & Steve Lyons Sideline Officials: Paul Holland & Chris James Video Referee: Sean Hampstead Crowd: 10,623 Half time: Dragons 12-6
St George Illawarra Dragons 38 Tries: Beau Scott, Ben Hornby, Wendell Sailor (2), Michael Lett, Jamie Soward, Nick Emmett Goals: Jamie Soward (5/8) Penrith Panthers 10 Tries: Wade Graham, Frank Pritchard Goals: Jarrod Sammut (1/1), Gavin Cooper (0/1)
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DRAGONS: 1. Jason Nightingale 2. Brett Morris 3. Chase Stanley 17. Michael Lett 5. Wendell Sailor 6. Jamie Soward 7. Ben Hornby (c) 15. Jon Green 15. Jon Green 9. Luke Priddis 10. Dan Hunt 11. Dean Young 12. Beau Scott 13. Neville Costigan Interchange: 14. Mickey Paea 16. Mathew Head 18. Trent Merrin 19. Nick Emmett PANTHERS: 1. Jarrod Sammut 25. Lachlan Coote 3. Geoff Daniela 4. Maurice Blair 5. Shane Elford 6. Wade Graham 7. Luke Walsh 8. Tim Grant 9. Paul Aiton 10. Frank Puletua 11. 15. Gavin Cooper 12. Frank Pritchard (c) 13. Nathan Smith Interchange: 16. Joseph Paulo 17. Matthew Bell 18. Masada Iosefa 19. Sam McKendry
Chilly and windy night in Wollongong. Lots of rain today. Both teams without players due to Origin duties and injuries. Dragons starting as favourites.
Changes to teams named on Tuesday: For the Dragons: Centre Matt Cooper is out and has been replaced by Michael Lett. Prop Jarrod Saffy is also out, his place in the run on side has been taken by Jon Green. For the Panthers: Winger Brad Tighe is out and has been replaced by Lachlan Coote. Gavin Cooper has taken skipper Trent Waterhouse's place at in the second row. Forward Frank Pritchard has been named captain.
Wind favouring Saints in the first half. Penrith kick off, and it's game on!
5 min: Panthers with the early chances and playing the game down the Dragons end of the field. Saints survive the opening raids.
7 min: Top football from both teams as Penrith put an up-and-under into the danger zone out wide. Well pulled in and support is there, but Dragons defence is up to the task and force the ball carrier into touch. Penrith still dominating possession.
11 min: Video Ref looking at possible TRY to Dragons.... Verdict...
11 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Beau Scott scores in the corner following a cross-field kick from Jamie Soward. Wendell Sailor lets it bounce, Scott gathers up the pill, gets in behind the defence and beats the covering tackle to touch down in-goal, just inside the side line. Conversion attempt by Soward unsuccessful. St George Illawarra Dragons 4-0
16 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Dragons captain Ben Hornby scores under the posts after jumping high to a Soward bomb. Hornby never taking his eyes off the ball and just too good for the Penrith fullback Jarrod Sammut who looked a tad flat-footed. Conversion attempt by Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 10-0
25 min: Game has settled into an arm wrestle. Panthers thus far have been unable to convert their chances but are still well in the contest.
27 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Five eighth Wade Graham scores 10m in from touch following a pin-point bomb from Luke Walsh. All points tonight so far coming from kicks. Conversion attempt by Jarrod Sammut successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 10-6
31 min: Video ref looking at possible TRY / Grounding following a Panthers cross-field kick. Ref seems to be looking for a decision as to the restart. Verdict... NO TRY. Dragons get a 20m restart.
35 min: PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons Soward makes no mistake from right in front. Follows a bust from Morris which led to a roll-on with Hornby coming within a whisker of scoring under the posts. Offside Penrith player Masada Iosefa knocks the ball out the dummy-half's hands, denying Saints a try scoring opportunity. A professional foul but for some reason no sin bin. St George Illawarra Dragons 12-6
37 min: Dragons benchie Trent Merrin over the line but Sammut saves the day for Panthers by stripping the ball. Saints with plenty of opportunities coming up to half time. Penrith hanging in there.
Half time: Dragons 12-6 A close contest with Penrith on top early before St George hit back with two quick tries against the run of play. The Panthers then lifted the tempo again following their opening try, but the Dragons looked to be gaining the ascendancy just before the break. On the stats front, the Dragons are enjoying 57% possession and have made three line breaks to nil. Panthers will have the wind at their backs in the second half. This match too close to call.
Second half underway...
42 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Wendell Sailor runs over the top of Lachlan Coote to score in the corner. Follows centre Chase Stanley getting around his man and set up Sailor with a flick pass. Sideline conversion by Soward is successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 18-6
INJURY NEWS - Penrith fullback Jarrod Sammut injured (torn ligament, thigh or hip) and will take no further part.
52 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Big Frank Pritchard, running straight and hard wide of the ruck, finds the gap and scores a great forward's try. Wide conversion attempt by stand-in Gavin Cooper hits the upright and is unsuccessful, apparently his first attempt in first grade and not a bad effort. St George Illawarra Dragons 18-10
61 min: Coote makes a bust up the middle. A kick follows and Saints counter attack with a bust from Jason Nightingale onto Morris. End-to-end stuff. Great footy.
62 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Sailor gets a double from dummy half, scoring in the corner on the back of the previous Dragons roll-on. Conversion attempt by Soward brushes the upright and goes through for the extra two points. St George Illawarra Dragons 24-10
65 min: Possible Dragons TRY. Video ref looking.... Verdict....
65 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Michael Lett gets the nod and scores in the corner. Lock Neville Costigan instrumental in the lead up and setting up Lett out wide. Conversion attempt by Soward unsuccessful but it looks like all over red rover. St George Illawarra Dragons 28-10
73 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Soward dummies from close range and does enough to get over the line just wide of the posts. Scoreline starting to blow out as Saints are hitting them hard around the ruck and looking to carve them up out wide. Conversion attempt by Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 34-10
76 min: 50 metre break from Morris from his own line. Dragons now on the attack deep in Panthers territory.
77 min: Grubber into the Penrith in-goal with Lett chasing, unable to get to it and Panthers will have the 20m restart.
78 min: Coote makes a bust from 30m out from the Dragons line for the Panthers, but the pass to winger Shane Elford goes to ground. Penrith still trying hard but no dice.
80 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Nick Emmett scores for Saints on the bell with a neat break down the right side from 25m out. The defence looking particularly tired but plenty of work to do. Conversion attempt by Soward unsuccessful. St George Illawarra Dragons 38-10
Full time: Dragons 38-10 Saints just too good in the end, smashing the visitors in the final 20 minutes. A top shelf second half performance from the Dragons, and going for the jugular against a beaten side. The young Panthers side tried hard and looked good at times, but were unable to keep up with the pace in the backend.