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Match summary The St George Illawarra Dragons have celebrated the return of Mark Gasnier with a much needed 38-20 victory over Penrith Panthers at CUA Stadium tonight.
Wearing the number six on his back, Gasnier played much of the first stanza in the backline in his more customary position of centre. But as the game progressed, the five-eighth came closer to the ruck and was solid in his first game since suffering a ruptured pectoral muscle in the Dragons Charity Shield pre-season game in March.
Following a rusty performance in the first half, Gasnier found room late in the game and was on hand to set up winger Jason Nightingale for his second try in the final minute of the match.
Sitting at the bottom of the NRL ladder, the Panthers began proceedings after just four minutes when fullback Michael Gordon stepped through some ordinary defence to score the opening try.
The Dragons struck back in the ninth minute through Jason Ryles, the prop forward scoring his first try of the year running onto a Simon Woolford kick into the in-goal.
The visitors were in again two minutes later with Nightingale getting his first four-pointer of the night courtesy of a trademark grubber kick from halfback Jamie Soward.
But the Panthers evened the ledger with centre Maurice Blair running onto a Craig Gower kick, and after just 14 minutes of play, the score board read 10-all.
The try-fest stalled for a while before Dragons winger Josh Morris ran onto a well timed pass from centre Chase Stanley. The 65 metre try under the posts gave the Dragons a 16-10 lead on the stroke of half time.
The Dragons went further ahead with hooker/five eighth Rangi Chase darting from dummy half and crashing over two minutes into the second half.
With tries either side the break, the Dragons had raced away to 22-10 lead and were well in the box seat.
But the Panthers were far from done with. Former Dragon and five eighth Richie Williams dived on a loose ball to score in the 50th minute. Then seven minutes later, another former Dragon in winger Nick Youngquest found the in-goal following a clever kick from Gower.
With over 20 minutes to go, Saints were hanging onto a tenuous 22-20 lead.
The Dragons however, were able to lift a gear in the final 10 minutes with tries to centre Matt Cooper and lock forward Ben Creagh before Nightingale added his second try to give the visitors a comfortable looking victory on the score board.
Match Details Round 19 - Full Time :: July 21st, 2007 05:30 PM Venue: CUA Stadium Referee: Gavin Badger Half time: Dragons 16-10 [pic: Simon Woolford setting up the Jason Ryles try, Mark Gasnier in the background.]
Penrith Panthers 20 Tries: Michael Gordon, Maurice Blair, Richie Williams, Nick Youngquest Goals: Nick Youngquest (2/4) St George Illawarra Dragons 38 Tries: Jason Ryles, Jason Nightingale (2), Josh Morris, Rangi Chase, Matt Cooper, Ben Creagh Goals: Jamie Soward (5/7)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Jamie Soward (Dragons) 2 Points: Ben Creagh (Dragons) 1 Point: Craig Gower (Panthers)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary 16th v 14th. Teams warming up and kick off is not far away. Big news during the week is that Mark Gasnier will be making his long awaited return for the Dragons, playing with the number 6 on his back - a five eighth with a roaming commission. Justin Poore also a late call up and will join Jason Ryles in the front row. The Dragons looking for redemption following a thrashing at the hands of the Warriors last week. Home side the Panthers pretty much as per the card with Richard Williams slotting into five eighth and facing up against his old team. Panthers on the bottom of the ladder but coming off a big win last week over the Bulldogs. Panthers to kick off... KICK OFF!
4 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Fullback Michael Gordon puts on the big step and races over to score 15m wide of the posts. Soft defence but Gordon's step was too good for Dragons centre Chase Stanley. Conversion attempt by Nick Youngquest successful. Penrith Panthers 6-0
9 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Prop Jason Ryles runs onto a grubber kick from hooker Simon Woolford to score 12m wide of the posts. Follows kick play-the-ball from lock Ben Creagh. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. 6 all
11 min: Possible try to Dragons. Video ref checking....
11 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Winger Jason Nightingale gets the nod from the video ref, onside and grounding given the green light. Follows grubber into the corner from halfback Soward. Ordinary looking conversion attempt by Jamie Soward is unsuccessful. St George Illawarra Dragons 10-6
14 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Centre Maurice Blair scores 10m in from touch following a chip kick from Craig Gower. Dragons unable to clean it up with Chase Stanley fumbling. Question mark over Youngquest taking out Soward when contesting the ball but the referee points to the spot. Conversion attempt by Nick Youngquest unsuccessful. 10 all
25 min: Panthers get a scrum feed 10m in Dragons half after Gasnier's first kick goes out on the full. Gasnier mainly standing well wide of the ruck and obviously looking rusty in his first NRL match of the year.
30 min: Following an early flurry, the match has developed into an arm wrestle with the Dragons enjoying a little more posession and field position. Too many penalties from the ref Gavin Badger early on but he seems to have settled down as well.
36 min: Possible try to Panthers. Video ref checking....
36 min: NO TRY Panthers denied. Panthers centre Michael Jennings is tackled by Dragons centre Matt Cooper into the corner post.
40 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Winger Josh Morris into space and up the middle of the park following a sensational short pass from Chase Stanley - Morris sprinting some 65m towards the corner to run around the cover defence and then improving his position to score under the posts. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 16-10
Half time: Dragons 16-10 A late try to the Dragons to give them the acendancy late in the half. Both sides looking flat. Saints with around 53% posssession and looking a little more dangerous. But this match too close to call.
Second half underway...
42 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Hooker aka five eighth Rangi Chase crashes through from dummy half and scores next to the sticks, the defence going to sleep. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 22-10
48 min: Panthers getting a few sets at the line as the Dragons are forced into a second line drop out.
50 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Five eighth Richie Williams cleans up the dregs following a kick from Gower which sees Stanley come up with the pill only to avoid going into touch by throwing a wild ball inside. Williams dives on the loose ball. Conversion attempt by Nick Youngquest successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 22-16
57 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Youngquest on the spot to take a Gower cross-field chip to score in the corner. Comes on the back of a series of penalties and calls going against the Dragons. Panthers dominating field position for the last 15 min. Conversion attempt by Nick Youngquest unsuccessful. St George Illawarra Dragons 22-20
64 min: Possible try to Panthers. Video ref having a look...
64 min: NO TRY Panthers denied. Winger Geoff Daniela ruled to have knocked the ball forward while contesting a Gower kick.
67 min: Panthers applying more pressure now and come close to scoring again as an overlap develops, the ball going to ground and the Dragons are off the hook.
INJURIES - Panther backs Luke Lewis and Michael Gordon reportedly with hamstring injuries and unlikley to return.
69 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Cooper scores 15m wide of the posts after Soward makes a bust from inside his own half, fnding backrower Beau Scott in support who gives the final pass to Cooper. Against the run of play. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 28-20
70 min: Panthers restart and kick out on the full.
71 min: Possible try to Dragons...
71 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Ben Creagh crashes over out wide after getting the benefit of the doubt on the put down, Creagh turned upside down as he gets the ball down. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward hits the upright and is unsuccessful. St George Illawarra Dragons 32-20
77 min: Panthers with the ball on half way but it looks like Saints have done enough to win tonight.
80 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Nightingale scores out wide after Gasnier throws a dummy and makes a bust down the left side. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 38-20
Full time: Saints have posted a solid win but the match was closer than the scoreline indicates. Both sides with work to do in discipline as well as in defence and with attacking options. Panthers now likely favourites for the wooden spoon while there's still a glimmer of hope for the Dragons to make the top eight.