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A masterful kicking display from Jamie Soward has proven the catalyst for the St George Illawarra Dragons 25-16 victory over a spirited Gold Coast Titans outfit at Skilled Park.
The five-eighth's pinpoint boot provided three tries - including a double for fullback Darius Boyd - as well as nine points thanks to a field goal and a perfect one hundred percent success rate in his four shots at goal.
The Dragons started on the front foot and posted the opener when Nathan Fien strolled through a massive gap in the Titans defence. The visitors pushed further ahead thanks to a perfectly timed chip from Soward for a flying Ben Creagh.
However, the introduction of super-subs Preston Campbell and backrowers Sam Tagataese and Ryan James saw the Titans muster a late second half surge. It culminated in a try to former Bronco back Steven Michaels, who was lucky enough to pounce on a ricochet from a high Scott Prince kick.
With the scoreline reading 12-6 to St George Illawarra at the break, the Gold Coast were very much in the contest before a snap Soward field goal stretched the advantage to seven points.
The Dragons next try was shrouded in controversy that will linger beyond tonight's result. A last tackle Soward chip over the top looked to be convered by Willman Zillman before the custodian collided with referee Phil Haines, allowing Boyd a free passage to the ball. However much to the dismay of the home audience, and despite the fact that Haines clearly obstructed Zillman's path to the ball, the video referee ruled try.
Soward then mirrored his efforts when he provided a similar kick for Boyd's second in the 63rd minute, giving his side an unassailable 25-6 lead. To the Titans' credit, they didn't die wondering and two tries in the last ten minutes ensured the scoreboard reflected the tenacity of the contest.
Aside from Soward, Dragons' forward Ben Creagh was tough to handle, while Prince was the standout for a Titans side that missed the consistency and high workrates of injured forwards Nathan Friend, Anthony Laffranchi and Bradley Meyers.
Gold Coast Titans 18 were defeated by St George Illawarra Dragons 25
National Rugby League - Round 1 - Saturday March 12, 2011 7:30pm
Venue: Skilled Park
Referee: Jared Maxwell and Phil Haines
Video Referee: Steve Clark
Touch Judges: Steve Carrall and Adam Gee
Halftime: Gold Coast Titans 6 St George Illawarra Dragons 12
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Jamie Soward (4 Conversions, 1 Field Goal)
2 Points - Ben Creagh (1 Try)
1 Point - Scott Prince (3 Conversions)
GOLD COAST TITANS (16)
Tries: Steve Michaels, Ashley Harrison, Sam Tagataese
Conversions: Scott Prince (2/3)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (25)
Tries: Ben Creagh, Nathan Fien, Darius Boyd (2)
Field Goals: Jamie Soward (1/2)
Conversions: Jamie Soward (4/4)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good evening and welcome to tonight's coverage of the clash between Gold Coast and St George Illawarra. It promises to be a cracking season opening round matchup with the reigning premiers and world champions coming up against the team that made it to the semi finals last year.
The Titans do have a few big guns out - Nathan Friend, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Minichiello and Brad Meyers are all on the sidelines. Leaves some big holes, they do have a full and vocal home crowd on their side though.
Titans are as per program, the Dragons have young hooker Mitchell Rein making his debut.
Matt Cooper's 200th NRL game tonight!
1 min: Kick off! Titans recieve the ball and we are underway at Skilled Park.
2 min: Dna Hunt charges down a Prince kick but Zillman uses his speed to scoot back and clean it up.
3 min: TRY
Ben Creagh sends Hornby through the line and on the next play Nathan Fien finds a huge gap up the middle to open the scoring. Danger signs for the Coast already. Soward converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 6-0
7 min: Matt Prior makes an error but somewhat makes up for by catching Prince in a great one-on-one tackle.
8 min: Matt Prior makes another error and the Titans get the scrum feed 30m out from the Dragons' line.
11 min: Titans pressuring the Dragons line but they hold on and get a penalty to help them out of their end.
14 min: Greg Bird with a simple error at the play the ball - he's not happy either - understandably.
17 min: Ash Harrison penalised for not playing it correctly, fair call and they are cracking down on that area this season.
21 min: The Titans throw together some offloads before a last tackle bomb is fielded with ease by Nightingale, who copped a knee or two for his troubles.
23 min: Fien finds touch near the corner, the Dragons scrambling defence has been good so far - Titans poking their noses through the line but they're getting shut down.
25 min: TRY
Jamie Soward with a perfectly timed little chip to the ingoal for a flying Ben Creagh, who picks it from the air AFL-style and slams it down. Soward converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 12-0
28 min: Preston Campbell on now for the Titans, looks like he'll play from hooker tonight.
29 min: A comedy of errors there, players slipping, fumbling and kicking - Dragons end up with it though.
32 min: Gold Coast's fifth tackle play falls to pieces, not for the first time tonight either.
34 min: Titans finding some muscle in defence with Tagataese but a penalty against Ryan James undoes all the good work.
37 min: TRY
Scott Prince bombs high and in the contest for the ball Nighingale and Gordon both miss it - it ends up in the arms of Steve Michaels, who simply dives over. Prince converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 12-6
39 min: Double knock-on, Titans first though and St George Illawarra get one last set on the attack before halftime.
40 min: FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT
Jamie Soward attempts a field goal on the stroke of the siren but it barely gets of the ground..
St George Illawarra Dragons 12-6
40 min: Halftime: St George started well but the Titans found some spark in the last 15 minutes or so thanks to their bench. Still anyone's game but it's a tough ask for the Coast to break through this pretty imposing Dragons defence.
41 min: Second half underway!
44 min: Sam Tagataese bringing out the bellringers tonight! This time a big tackle on Nightingale's kick return.
47 min: FIELD GOAL
Dragons FIELD GOAL
Out of absolutely nowhere, Soward decides to add an extra point for his side. Interesting move, still so much time to go..
St George Illawarra Dragons 13-6
49 min: Scotty Prince runs it on the last and Capewell throws a great inside pass to Luke Bailey of all people but his pass doesn't find the mark. Great enterprise but the Titans can't quite take their chances.
52 min: Darius Boyd fumbles a towering bomb and now St George are under all sorts of pressure.
53 min: Jamie Soward comes up with a solid tackle on Greg Bird, who doesn't look well. Soward injures Bird - yes, those names are in the right order.
54 min: Video referee - possible Dragons try.. the referee got in the way of a Titans player there..
55 min: TRY
Wow, controversial call! Soward chipped over the top but Titans fullback William Zillman looked to have it covered before colliding with referee Phil Haines, who got in his way. Darius Boyd then got to the ball and scored. Titans aren't happy, the ref definitely obstructed Zillman's path to the ball. Soward converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 19-6
58 min: Darius Boyd flies high and claims a bomb, great courage.
62 min: Michael Greenfield gets driven into touch on his first touch but Matt Cooper strips it one-on-one on the next set.
63 min: TRY
Soward with another great kick once again for Darius Boyd, who catches and scores despite falling very awkwardly. Soward converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 25-6
67 min: Prince elects to run in on the last but his pass to Greg Bird is ruled forward - it's not quite working for Gold Coast.
70 min: TRY
Magical work from Scott Prince - he ran at the line, drew the defence before kicking back at the opposite angle for Ashley Harrison to pounce on the ball under the posts. Prince converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 25-12
73 min: Riley Brown nearly breaks through the line but the Dragons hold on and a poor fifth tackle kick hands the ball back to the Dragons.
79 min: Some big shoulder charges from Matt White and Tagataese forces an error but it's all too late for the Titans.
80 min: TRY
A strong surge from Sam Tagataese results in a deserve four pointer, he provided some good impact off the bench tonight. Scott Prince fails to convert.
St George Illawarra Dragons 25-16