Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
2 days ago
Down 12-0 early, the Dragons rallied hard to record their seventh win of the season, elevating them into equal eighth spot.
The match boiled over with five minutes to go when Willie Manu along with Parramatta's Jack Afamasanga and Thomas MacGougan were sent off by referee Ben Cummings for being involved in a massive all in brawl.
For the Dragons, Daniel Holdsworth was head and shoulders above the rest. The five-eighth scored a brilliant individual try that got his side back in the match.
With the Eels sitting pretty on top of the Premier League ladder, the Dragons were going to need every ounce of luck they could muster to get over the top of their western rivals. It only took four minutes before lady luck dealt a tough first hand.
Attacking just 20 metres out from the Dragons line a Marcus Perenara bomb miraculously richoted off the cross bar back into the hands of Perenara who looked to his outside and found an unmarked Brett Delaney jogging on the spot. The centre cantered over the stripe untouched to register the home sides first points.
Just five minutes later the Dragons found themselves further behind when yet another Perenara bomb found a leaping John Williams who crashed over in the corner. Delaney's sideline conversion gave his side an early 12 point advantage.
From that point on the match opened up with both sides preparing to throw the ball around. As a result the respective error rates increased but the crowd were certainly getting their monies worth.
The Dragons got themselves back in after 25 minutes when newly elevated winger Brett Morris split the Eels defences from dummy half, just on Parramatta's side of halfway. The winger looked back on his inside and found Keiran Kerr backing up. The halfback sprinted the rest of the distance untouched to score the try.
Holdsworth's conversion made it a six point ball game. The margin would remain at six for the remainder of the half.
Going into the second half the visitors had all the momentum. It was Holdsworth who harnessed it to put his side back on level pegging. The five-eighth, who has had a knack of pulling his side out the fire in recent weeks chipped over the top just five metres out from the Eels line, regathered amidst a sea of blue and gold and crashed over the line in an amazing solo effort. The no. 6 backed up his effort by converting from close range.
The Holdsworth try seemed to spark the Eels into action. Playing some of their best footy, Parramatta threw countless attacking raids at the Dragons, but with a top eight spot beckoning, the Red and White wall refused to yield.
The match sparked into action with ten minutes to go. When Eels prop Afamasanga spilt the ball on half way trying to offload, Tom Hewitt swooped on the crumbs and sprinted 50 metres to score under the sticks. Holdsworth's conversion made it 18-12 to the visitors.
The league leaders became ruffled and it wasn't long before things got out of hand. Tempers frayed between Manu and MacGougan, resulting in an all in. The brawl spilt over the sideline with all 26 players involved. Manu, along with two Parramatta players were sent off.
With the extra player the Dragons were able to hang on and record a very important win.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 18 ( K Kerr, D Holdsworth, T Hewitt tries; D Holdsworth 3 goals) d. PARRAMATTA EELS 12 ( B Delaney, J Williams tries; T Delaney 2 goals)
Meanwhile in Jersey Flegg, the Dragons now sit four points clear on top of the ladder after narrowly defeating the second place Parramatta 32-30.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 32 ( B Jefferies, G Ndaira, J Morris, J Tanner, J Nightingale, J Dunning tries; J Lewis 4 goals) d. PARRAMATTA 30 (J Hayne, K Inu, I Hauraki, B Green, S Greaves, J Koborsi tries; B Green 3 goals)