Dragons take winning form into finals

It was all the Dragons tonight in Wollongong, the reigning premiers victorious over a gallant Penrith 32-12 in front of 13,621 fans.

With their position in the finals uncertain regardless of tonight's result, the Dragons played the same clinical, methodical rugby league that saw them win last year's premiership. After holding out a strong start from Penrith, the Dragons found points through winger Brett Morris in both of their first two ventures into opposition territory.

The Dragons took the 12-0 lead into the halftime break on the back of trademark defence, while continuing to threaten the tryline on a number of other occasions.

While Penrith threw the ball around more and Luke Walsh's precise kicking game rivalled his opponent Jamie Soward, the Panthers lacked the finishing and class of the Dragons for much of the game. While they managed to strike back through Blake Austin midway in the second half, the Dragons responded quickly with back-to-back tries, with Soward, Nightingale and later Cooper all adding to their account.

Lachlan Coote benefitted from a fantastic inside ball from his teammates to peg a try back but it was the Dragons who had the last laugh, Mitch Rein scoring a dubious try in the end for a comfortable win in the Red V's last home appearance in 2011.

Penrith's off-season now will begin, the mountain men farewelling Trent Waterhouse as well as captain Petero Civoniceva. Veteran second-rower Waterhouse is bound for England, while Petero is headed back to Brisbane.

For the Dragons, they currently sit fourth and will remain there if the Sharks defeat the Wests Tigers tomorrow and the Warriors win at home over the Cowboys. If either of those do not eventuate, the Dragons can finish as low as 6th.

Match Details
St George Illawarra Dragons 32 defeated Penrith Panthers 12
National Rugby League - Round 26 - Friday September 2, 2011 7:30pm
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Referee: Gavin Badger and Phil Haines
Video Referee: Sean Hampstead
Touch Judges: Steve Carrall and Russell Turner
Crowd: 13,621
Halftime: St George Illawarra Dragons 12 Penrith Panthers 0

Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Matt Cooper (1 Try)
2 Points - Brett Morris (2 Tries)
1 Point - Blake Austin (1 Try)

St George Illawarra Dragons (32)
Tries: Matt Cooper, Jamie Soward, Brett Morris (2), Jason Nightingale, Mitchell Rein
Conversions: Jamie Soward (4/6)

Penrith Panthers (12)
Tries: Lachlan Coote, Blake Austin
Conversions: Luke Walsh (2/2)

LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Some might call this the "forgotten game of Round 26", with all the drama set to take place at Newcastle overshadowing the Dragons' late bid for a top four berth. Victory tonight over Penrith sends the Dragons catapulting into fourth position but they will rely on results to stay there - and ultimately this will decide who they play and where in next week's Qualifying Finals.
The Toyota Cup clash went the way of Penrith tonight by 30-24. Both were playing for the last place in the top eight tonight, however they would both have relied on Newcastle losing to South Sydney to leapfrog the Knights into 8th. The Knights have won their game up the F3, which means both the Dragons and Panthers are out of contention there.
CHANGES: The Dragons have instigated similar changes to last week's win over the Warriors - Mitch Rein will start at hooker, Dean Young shifts to lock and Matt Prior drops to the bench. Jon Green is the omitted player.
CHANGES: Despite their earlier omissions, Penrith captain Petero Civoniceva and club veteran Trent Waterhouse will start in tonight's clash. Nigel Plum drops to the bench, while Matthew Bell and Dayne Weston are the players who drop from the side, and Kevin Kingston will start in place of Nafe Seluini at hooker, with the latter dropping to the bench. Click the "Team Lists" tab for the final, less confusing lineups.
We are underway at WIN Stadium, the Dragons in their Red V up against the black attack of Penrith. Dragons with first ball.
2 min: Penrith with the better start, they've made it deep into Dragons' territory on their first set. A bomb from Walsh is well fielded by Nightingale and the Dragons are let off the hook.
3 min: Brett Morris breaks down the left flank and he's away! Great cover from Luke Walsh to force Brett into touch.
4 min: Penrith force a repeat set by tackling Brett Morris in-goal. From the ensuing set the Panthers try the right-side out and find themselves put in touch. Dragons scrum.
8 min: Penrith go left and again find touch instead of breaking through. Solid defence from the Dragons, who are yet to push into the opposition half...
9 min: Forward pass picked up on tackle two, poor discipline Dragons. Panthers scrum just short of halfway.
10 min: Another line dropout forced by Luke Walsh, he makes Jamie Soward knock it dead. Lots of pressure but no points yet from the Mountain Men.
14 min: Dragons manage a penalty for an offside Panther. They attack for the first time today.
16 min: TRY
TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Scored by Brett Morris. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful.
The classic Dragons' backline movement works again, Cooper drawing the defenders and finding an unmarked Brett Morris for the try. He improves the position and Soward makes no mistake to take it to 6-0.
St George Illawarra Dragons 6-0
18 min: Superb stuff. Penrith find the Dragons deep and Nightingale, Boyd and Morris combine and send Matt Cooper into space but the Panthers' cover long-range has been great again and they send Cooper into touch. St George Illawarra concede a penalty which now puts Penrith back on the attack once more.
22 min: Penrith force the line dropout and from the next set they threaten again with the high ball - but they throw it into touch inexplicably!
25 min: Dragons on the attack. Soward with a chip that threatens in the air before Lachlan Coote comes down with it safely.
27 min: Relieving penalty for the Dragons as they near halfway. Another chance to pepper the Panthers line here for the Red V.
30 min: TRY
TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Scored by Brett Morris. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful.
Freakish. Brett Morris bags a double with a fantastic effort to reach out in the corner. Jamie Soward converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 12-0
33 min: Penrith earn a penalty through Nafe Seluini, catching the opposition offside. They start a set inside the Dragons' half.
36 min: Some sweeping Dragons backline moves see Purtell forced to knock the ball dead. Dragons to receive their first line dropout of the night.
37 min: Last tackle sees Soward turn the kick back inside, Boyd almost under it but the Panthers take it on the full. Hold on, penalty for the Dragons being offside from the 20m tap.
39 min: Penrith hammering the Dragons line in the shadows of halftime, a second penalty has them heavy on the attack.
40 min: Inside the final minute. Dragons knock the ball down and it's a Panthers scrum with 40 seconds on the clock.
40 min: Brett Morris wraps up the Luke Walsh grubber. Superb defence closes the half for the home side.
HALFTIME here at WIN Stadium and a commanding performance, largely in defence by the Dragons, sees them lead 12-0. It's hard to see Penrith penetrating the Dragons' line with such defence quality but stranger things have happened, with the home side renowned for weak second halves lately.
41 min: We're back underway at WIN Stadium. Penrith with the first posession.
44 min: Much of the action so far in the second half confined to the Panthers end of the park. Dragons putting plenty of pressure on their opposite numbers.
49 min: The Dragons make it deep into Penrith territory but much like their opponents in the first half, they can't get over the line. They do manage to keep Penrith deep in their own half from the following set which means they'll continue the territorial advantage.
50 min: ...that is, until Matt Prior loses it 40m out. Panthers scrum.
52 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Blake Austin. Conversion attempt by Luke Walsh successful.
Blake Austin benefits from some sloppy hands off a kick - it's Penrith in for their first try! Walsh converts from out wide and we have a contest!
St George Illawarra Dragons 12-6
54 min: Waterhouse knock on. Dragons scrum.
57 min: TRY
TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Scored by Jamie Soward. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful.
Jamie Soward plucks the ball out of the air and suddenly the Dragons are back in front by twelve.
St George Illawarra Dragons 18-6
58 min: Subsequent penalty off the second tackle sees St George Illawarra heavy on the attack.
60 min: TRY
TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Scored by Jason Nightingale. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful.
Jason Nightingale plays with the touchline like it's a precipice! Saints extend their lead. Phenomenal stuff. Soward moves in, strikes it and it's wide.
St George Illawarra Dragons 22-6
63 min: Dragons concede a penalty forcing them to defend their line...
65 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Lachlan Coote. Conversion attempt by Luke Walsh successful.
Beautiful inside ball destroys the Dragons defence and Penrith peg one back. Walsh converts and the difference is 10 points.
St George Illawarra Dragons 22-12
70 min: TRY
TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Scored by Matt Cooper. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful.
Matt Cooper finally gets his name on the scorers sheet, the Panthers not able to handle the Dragons' right side again on the last tackle.
St George Illawarra Dragons 26-12
74 min: Penrith benefit from a Matt Cooper error attempting to catch the ball. They have a full set on the Dragons' line...
76 min: Brett Morris makes a super line break, he's down the sideline and BANG, he's bought down. Dan Hunt then bought down short. Forward pass next tackle, Panthers' ball.
77 min: VIDEO REFEREE possible Dragons try to Mitch Rein. Just checking the handling before the put down...
78 min: TRY
TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Scored by Mitchell Rein. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful.
Mitch Rein takes advantage of some weary Panthers attack and bobbles the ball near the line but still is awarded the try. Soward converts for a comfortable 20-point margin.
St George Illawarra Dragons 32-12
79 min: Just when you think you've seen it all, FRONT ROWER Michael Weyman runs down Junior Vaivai. Wow.
FULLTIME at WIN Stadium, the Dragons have confidently wrapped up a top six finish tonight. Whether they finish 4th, 5th or 6th will rely on other results.

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