Match Summary The St George Illawarra Dragons have opened their 2008 account with a comprehensive 30-12 victory over the Gold Coast Titans in Wollongong to complete Round 2 of the Telstra Premiership.
The Dragons started the game by dominating both possession and territory for the first 20 minutes but could only post one try to Matt Cooper, while at least two other chances were squandered. The Titans hit back with a try Nathan Friend to level the scores before the heavy rain reduced the first half to a very forward-orientated slog as the outer 20 metres of the field quickly became no-go zones.
The Dragons turned up the heat considerably in the second half, making light work of both their opposition and the poor conditions to run in two very quick tries before the Titans could even draw breath. Jason Nightingale and Mark Gasnier capitalised on the pin-point kicks provided by the Dragons halves and the lead had quickly blown out to 18-6.
Rangi Chase added a further try to the Dragons tally before the Titans were finally able to hit back through Mark Minichiello, but a Dragons penalty goal shortly afterwards opened up a 14 point lead for the home team and took a lot of wind out of the visitors sails. A second try to Matt Cooper added the finishing touch to a convincing win that should get the doubters to leave Nathan Brown alone for a few days at least.
The Dragons were best served by their enigmatic halves Jamie Soward and Rangi Chase, while Dean Young, Kirk Reynoldson and Chase Stanley all had their moments as well. On the other hand, the Titans were a mere shadow of the team that blitzed their first round opponents and need to resolve their travelling woes to have any chance of making a real impact in the 2008 competition.
St George Illawarra Dragons 30 Tries: Matt Cooper (2), Jason Nightingale, Mark Gasnier, Rangi Chase Goals: Jamie Soward (4/5), Mark Gasnier (1/1) Gold Coast Titans 12 Tries: Nathan Friend, Mark Minichiello Goals: Scott Prince (2/2)
Live Commentary Welcome to a wet WIN Stadium for a clash between one of the worst and one of the best performers from Round One. The St George Illawarra Dragons (and especially their coach) are under the pump already, while the Gold Coast Titans will venture south full of confidence.
Team changes: Luke Swain comes onto the Titans bench in place of Daniel Conn who is out with a knee injury. Ben Ellis will start the match for the Dragons in place of Simon Woolford.
KICKOFF - We're underway!
4 min: An error from Ben Jeffrey hands a repeat set to the Dragons only ten metres out from the Titans line.
6 min: The Dragons receive a penalty right in front of the Titans goal-line and elect to take the quick tap.
8 min: After a third repeat set the Dragons hand over possession by mucking up a run-around play and being penalised for obstruction.
11 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Matt Cooper crashes through two Titans defenders and scores the opening try after some nice lead-up work by Rangi Chase and Dean Young. Mark Gasnier converts. St George Illawarra Dragons 6-0
14 min: Jamie Soward hoofs a deep kick downfield that sits perfectly in the Titans in-goal, and Jordan Atkins is trapped by a trio of Dragons chasers. Possession is running about 70/30 in the Dragons favour at the moment.
15 min: Mark Gasnier takes a short pass from Ben Ellis and finds himself in the clear with the tryline beckoning, but the pass is called forward.
19 min: Dean Young makes a clean break through the Titans defence and tries to steamroll Preston Campbell but comes off second best - a great shot by Preston stops him in his tracks.
25 min: VIDEO REF - possible Titans try ...
27 min: Mark Gasnier tries to beat Luke O'Dwyer one-on-one after a Dragons scrum win, but O'Dwyer does well to stay with him and eventually throw him into touch.
32 min: Brett Delaney takes a short pass from Mat Rogers and tries to crash through the Dragons defence on their own tryline but fumbles the ball and the chance goes begging. The rain is getting heavier now.
37 min: Gavin Badger manages the unusual trick of calling "HELD" and blowing his whistle at the exact same second. The end result is that the Dragons are penalised for carrying on with a tackle against Mat Rogers.
38 min: The Titans try a slick backline move that ends with Ben Jeffrey being thrown into touch.
HALFTIME: St George Illawarra Dragons 6 Gold Coast Titans 6
The Dragons have had the best of the first half opportunities and the Titans have done well to keep the scores level. The rain is having an impact out there - plenty of dropped ball and players sliding into touch - and whoever handles these conditions better will end up winning here tonight.
Possession: Dragons 52% Titans 48% In own half: Dragons 38% Titans 62% Completion: Dragons 17/22 Titans 11/18 Missed tackles: Dragons 7 Titans 13
The second half is underway! Jordan Atkins very nearly fumbles the re-start but is able to recover.
43 min: VIDEO REF - possible Dragons try ...
43 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Preston Campbell and Jordan Atkins allow a huge Jamie Soward bomb to bounce away into the in-goal area, and Jason Nightingale wins the race to the loose ball to open the second half scoring. Jamie Soward converts. St George Illawarra Dragons 12-6
45 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Rangi Chase puts a grubber kick through the line on an early tackle and Mark Gasnier races through and slides across the tryline untouched. Jamie Soward converts from out wide. St George Illawarra Dragons 18-6
49 min: The Titans spin the ball wide and Ben Jeffrey finds himself in space before chipping the ball back infield but the Dragons defence is on hand to knock the ball dead.
53 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Rangi Chase gets the ball twelve metres out from the Titans line and steps his way into a HUGE hole before crossing the tryline and dotting down right under the posts. Jamie Soward converts. St George Illawarra Dragons 24-6
60 min: HELD UP - Anthony Laffranchi tries to dart across from dummy half but is held up by the Dragons defence.
60 min: TRY Gold Coast Titans On the next play Scott Prince grubbers the ball into the in-goal and for some reason there are no Dragons defenders in sight. Mark Minichiello scores one of the easiest tries of this career, and Scott Prince adds the extras. St George Illawarra Dragons 24-12
64 min: PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons The Titans are stretched following some good play from Chase Stanley and are all caught offside on the next tackle. Jamie Soward kicks another goal to increase the lead for the home team. St George Illawarra Dragons 26-12
70 min: Mat Rogers tries to dance through the Dragons defence but loses the ball just short of the tryline.
74 min: A long-range attacking effort from the Titans is called back after a forward pass from Mark Minichiello.
75 min: VIDEO REF - possible Dragons try ...
75 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Matt Cooper grabs his second try of the night from a Jamie Soward chip-kick across field - although he then slides shoulder-first into the brick barrier at the end of the ground, but looks to be OK. Jamie Soward misses the conversion attempt. St George Illawarra Dragons 30-12
80 min: The Titans have one last chance as Mat Rogers makes half a break and kicks ahead but Jason Nightingale wins the race and cleans up the ball.
FULLTIME: St George Illawarra Dragons 30 Gold Coast Titans 12