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Gasnier out for season, Dragons win Charity Shield
A dazzling 70-metre intercept try from half back Ben Hornby has delivered the St George Illawarra Dragons a 16-14 victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the annual Charity Shield clash tonight.
But the win appears to have come at a major cost with five-eighth and co-captain Mark Gasnier being forced from the field with a shoulder inury in the 63rd minute.
The extent of the injury is yet to be fully determined but reports indicate that Gasnier has a torn pectoral muscle, often a season-ending injury.
A Telstra Stadium crowd of over 20,000 were in attendance to see what is widely recognised at the unofficial start to the rugby league season.
With numerous new recruits on show for both sides, the Rabbitohs appeared to have the strongest team on paper with seven internationals taking the field. The Dragons named a side of relative unknowns with a number of rookies replacing injured regulars.
Prior to being injured, Gasnier's move to five-eighth appeared to deliver the desired results with the former international centre proving a handful close to the ruck and giving good service to his outside men. But following a tackle on Nigel Vagana in the 63rd minute, Gasnier left the field and ran straight up the tunnel clutching at his right shoulder.
South Sydney opened the scoring after just four minutes when back rower Luke Stuart ran onto a beautifully timed pass from half back Joe Williams close to the line. Williams converted and the Rabbitohs were 6-0 in front.
The Dragons struck back in the 22nd minute through centre Wes Naiqama. Dummy half with new recruit Simon Woolford exploited a simple decoy play to find Gasnier in the backline. The ensuing overlap saw a bullet pass from Gasnier to Naiqama who finished well to touchdown out wide.
An unsuccessful conversion attempt followed and the Rabbitohs were up by 6-4.
The Dragons hit the lead soon after courtesy of another backline movement, rookie full back Josh Morris chiming in and finding space from 15-metres out.
Naiqama had little difficulty with the conversion and the Dragons were 10-6 in front coming up to half time.
Souths responded with some entertaining football and were rewarded just before the break. Following a knock-on by 17-year-old Dragons winger Chase Stanley, the Rabbitohs capitalised with a David Peachey trademark flick pass behind the back and onto forward David Kidwell who offloaded close to the line. Shannon Hegarty swooped on the loose ball to score, the video referee checking for a knock-on and giving Souths the benefit of the doubt.
At half time it was 10-all.
The scores remained deadlocked before centre Nigel Vagana scored midway through the second half. Once again the Rabbitohs were given benefit of the doubt by the video referee after the ball was batted down by Peachey. Vagana was on the spot to score adjacent to the corner post.
Williams was unable to convert and with 20 minutes remainng, Souths were 14-10 in the lead.
With Gasnier off the field and Souths gaining the ascendancy, it appeared that the Bunnies were set to retain the Shield. But a wayward pass from Williams to David Fa'alogo saw Hornby pounce on the intercept and run 70-metres to score the winning try.
DRAGONS 16 v RABBITOHS 14 (CHARITY SHIELD) Scorers Dragons: W Naiqama, J Morris, B Hornby tries. W Naiqama 2/3 goals. Scorers Rabbitohs: L Stuart, S Heggarty, N Vagana tries. J Williams 1/2, R Simmonds 0/1 goals.
Telstra Stadium, Homebush, NSW Crowd: 23,053 Referee: Shayne Hayne Kick off: 8.00pm HALF TIME: 10-all FULL TIME: Dragons 16-14
By the clock
4 min: TRY Rabbitohs Luke Stuart Conversion: Joe Williams Rabbitohs 6-0
22 min: TRY Dragons Wes Naiqama Conversion (unsuccessful): Wes Naiqama Rabbitohs 6-4
29 min: TRY Dragons Josh Morris Conversion: Wes Naiqama Dragons 10-6
39 min: TRY Rabbitohs Shannon Heggarty Conversion (unsuccessful): Reece Simmonds 10-all
58 min: TRY Rabbitohs Nigel Vagana Conversion (unsuccessful): Joe Williams Rabbitohs 14-10
74 min: TRY Dragons Ben Hornby Conversion: Wes Naiqama Dragons 16-14
Full time: Dragons win 2007 Charity Shield
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS Coach: Nathan Brown 1. Josh MORRIS 2. Luke MACDOUGALL 3. Wes NAIQAMA 4. Matt COOPER 5. Chase STANLEY 6. Mark GASNIER (c) 7. Ben HORNBY 8. Chris HOUSTON 9. Simon WOOLFORD 10. Dan HUNT 11. Ashton SIMS 12. Beau SCOTT 13. Ben CREAGH 14. Adam PEEK 15. Danny WICKS 16. Corey PAYNE 18. Lagi SETU 19. Ben ELLIS 20. Charlie LEAENO 21. Ricky THORBY
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS Coach: Jason Taylor 1. David Peachey 2. Paul Mellor 3. Nigel Vagana 4. Shannon Hegarty 5. Reece Simmonds 6. John Sutton 7. Joe Williams 8. Peter Cusack (c) 9. Stuart Webb 10. Roy Asotasi 11. David Kidwell (c) 12. Luke Stuart 13. David Fa