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Fulltime score: Round 7 Roosters 24 v Dragons 26
Match summary: In a sensational Anzac Day match, the St George Illawarra Dragons have fought out a gutsy 26-24 victory over the Sydney Roosters at Aussie Stadium today.
The turning point came three minutes from full time following late try to Dragons? centre Matt Cooper and a pressure sideline conversion from half back Mathew Head.
A crowd of over 30,000 were treated to a tremendous afternoon of Rugby League with the Roosters largely dominating play in the first half.
An early Dragons onslaught saw the visitors hit the lead after just two minutes with a penalty goal to Mathew Head. Five minutes later full back Ben Hornby sliced through to score out wide to give the Dragons a 6-0 lead.
But the Roosters struck back with tries to Anthony Minichiello and Chris Walker, to see them gain a handy 12-6 lead. Five minutes later Walker scored in the same corner and at 18-6, the Roosters were well in control.
But in the 38th minute, a second try to Ben Hornby, against the run of play, gave the Dragons something to build on and at half time, the Roosters were in front 18-12.
The second half saw a more committed Dragons outfit fighting hard to regain the middle ground. Following repeat sets, lock forward Shaun Timmins crashed over and after 55 minutes of hard hitting football, the scores were locked up at 18-all.
A penalty goal saw the Dragons hit the front for the second time but with 15 minutes to go, the game was far from over.
Three minutes later, the Roosters were in front again after a towering bomb from half back Brett Finch saw Ryan Cross win the scramble for the ball. Coming into the last 10 minutes, the Roosters held a tenuous 24-20 lead.
A flare-up in the middle of the park saw Finch sin binned along with Dragons' forward Justin Poore and for the final minutes, both sides were reduced to 12 men.
Immediately following the sin binning, the Roosters came within a whisker of scoring when a back line movement opened up the Dragons? defences and Roosters? prop Anthony Tupou found himself in no-man?s land. But as fate would have it, the final pass to Tupou didn?t stick, and the Dragons lived to fight again.
Then in the 77th minute, Mathew Head chipped over the defence, regathered for himself, and ran into open space. With the cover defence looming, Head found Cooper in support out wide. With plenty of work to do, Cooper stretched, his momentum carrying him far enough to score the equaliser.
Head then lined the conversion attempt from the sideline, striking the ball perfectly to see it sail between the uprights, and win the game for the Dragons.
Aussie Stadium. Crowd 32,270 Referee: Sean Hampstead
Dragons kickoff and Adrian Morley takes the first hit up!
2 min: PENALTY GOAL - Dragons. Mathew Head makes no mistake from almost in front. Roosters make two unforced errors early to put the Dragons on attack and then are found offside. Dragons 2-0
7 min: TRY - Dragons Ben Hornby shows a great turn of pace and slices down the left side to score 10m in from touch. Follows yet another handling error from the Roosters inside their own 20m zone. Morley being the culprit on two occasions. Head conversion attempt unsuccessful. Dragons 6-0
12 min: TRY - Roosters. Anthony Minichiello scores after backing up Brett Finch who found some easy yards following poor marker defence from the Dragons. Conversion Craig Fitzgibbon almost in front. 6-all
23 min: NEWS - Roosters getting repeat sets and throwing everything at the Dragons in the last five minutes. Excellent football from both sides with enterprsing attack from the Roosters and plenty big hits happening in defence from the Dragons. Referee getting involved with a few oddball penalties.
30 min: TRY - Roosters. Chris Walker scores 10m in from touch after an overlap appears down the Roosters' left side. Great hands from the Roosters who are now winning the battle of the ruck. Conversion Fitzgibbon. Roosters 12-6
35 min: TRY - Roosters. Chris Walker gets a double after the defence on the Dragons right flank is again found wanting. Conversion Fitzgibbon is spot on. Roosters 18-6
38 min: TRY - Dragons. Ben Hornby scores against the run of play and gets himself a double. Follows a kick from Head and a lack of communication from the Roosters in-goal defence. Hornby leaps through the air to grab the footy and touch down. Head conversion right in front. Roosters 18-12
HALF TIME: Roosters 18-12 In the opening minutes, everything was going the Dragons' way with a number of errors from the Roosters. But for the most part, the Roosters have been smashing the Dragons up the middle of the ruck and Saints have some real problems on their right flank. But a late try to the Dragons has lifted the spirit as the red and whites ran from the field looking keen to continue. For the Roosters, the front men are leading the way with Adrian Morley and Luke Ricketson setting up things nicely for half back Brett Finch. If they continue with that, they should go on with it. The Dragons need some go forward and looked a better team when Jason Ryles (blood binned for a while) was on the paddock. Lance Thompson is also leading well and Ben Hornby is playing a great hand from the back.
Second half underway...
NEWS - To try and tighten up things on the right side, the Dragons have switched winger Wes Naiqmama to the right flank and Colin Best is now on the left.
50 min: NEWS - Jason Ryles has been forced again to the blood bin. Dragons come out firing in the second half with Ben Hornby making a huge bust down the middle of the park. Dragons making errors to cruel their chances.
53 min: NEWS - Luke Ricketson on report for lifting Mathew Head above the horizontal, just pulling out of a spear tackle.
55 min: TRY - Dragons. Shaun Timmins goes himself and powers his way over 15m in from touch. Dragons get 3 back-to-back sets. Conversion from Head is good and we're all locked up again. 18-all
65 min: PENALTY GOAL - Dragons. Mathew Head puts the Dragons back in front. Michael Crocker penalised for making a second tackle. Dragons 20-18
67 min: NEWS - Wes Naiqama on report for attempted trip.
68 min: TRY - Roosters. Ryan Cross gets the nod from the video ref and the Roosters regain the lead. Follows towering up-and-under from Finch and scramble for the ball. Conversion from Amos Roberts, 11m wide of the posts, is successful.
72 min: NEWS - Tempers overflow into a dust-up. Brett Finch (Roosters) and Justin Poore (Dragons) are both sin binned! Its 12 on 12.
73 min: NEWS - Roosters get the penalty and then come within a whisker of scoring. Anthony Tupou spilling the ball with the tryline wide open.
75 min: Roosters with the ball in their own half. Time is running out for the Dragons.
77 min: TRY - Dragons. Matt Cooper runs onto a pass from Mathew Head who only monents earlier chipped ahead for himself and regathered. A sensational try to Cooper who had to wait for the video ref to rule on a possible double movement, but he always had the momentum to carry him over admidst some desperate Roosters defence. Sideline conversion Head is a ripper and brings the house down! Dragons 26-24
79 min: Dragons have the ball with 30 seconds to go.
FULL TIME: Dragons 26-24 An amazing match and a memorable win for the St George Dragons, Mathew Head being the man of the moment and match winner, pulling off a great finish in a tremendous match of Rugby League football. Both teams putting on a great afternoon's entertainment it what rates as one of the best games of the year so far.
For the Roosters, they certainly had the run of play for most of the first half and looked to be on the rise. Standouts include Ricketson, Morley and Fitzgibbon up front while Minichiello, Roberts and Walker were the pick of the backs. Brett Finch was in great form until he ran in to join a fight after the Roosters got the penalty, and got himself sin binned along with Dragons' forward Justin Poore.
A rare win for the Dragons who were outplayed in the first half. But a gutsy second half revival saw them dominate play down the Roosters' end of the field. Half back Mathew Head's handywork in the dying minutes was pure class and ultimately the difference between the two teams. Dean Young, Jason Ryles, Lance Thompson and Shaun Timmins were all standouts up front while Ben Hornby continues to shine at full back.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - M Head (Dragons) 2 - L Ricketson (Roosters) 1 - B Hornby (Dragons) -----------------------------------------