Superb Soward sparks Sea Eagles spanking

Dragons' five-eighth Jamie Soward has engineered a superb 48-18 victory over defending Premiers Manly in this afternoon's match at a near-capacity WIN Stadium in Wollongong. It was perhaps a gentle reminder directed at the NSW selectors after they opted to go with a more experienced halves pairing for Wednesday night's third Origin in Brisbane.

It didn't take long for the Dragons to commence the scoring, with winger Michael Lett taking advantage of a second-tackle knock on by the Eagles, diving over in the corner. After setting up that try, Dragons' centre Matt Cooper limped off the field with what appeared a serious ankle injury, however he was to return just 20 minutes later. Brett Morris extended the lead in the twelfth minute, latching onto a Matt Orford banana kick that hit the upright, but had only one chaser - prop Brent Kite. Morris raced 95 metres, stepping Kite before putting the ball under the black dot at the other end of WIN Stadium. Manly finally opened their own account in the 24th minute when George Rose took advantage of some enterprising last-tackle play - reaching out to put the ball on the line to close the gap to 14-6 after Soward's earlier penalty goal. Further tries to Wendell Sailor and Jason Nightingale, along with Vic Mauro's try for the Eagles had the sides heading to the sheds with the Dragons holding a comfortable 24-12 lead.

The first fifteen minutes of the second half featured both sides limiting their handling errors, but not offering much via way of attack. They successfully completed their sets, but Manly's inferior kicking game was to be their downfall. The Dragons finally took advantage of this, forcing a repeat seat in the 54th minute, before Chase Stanley extended the lead out to 18, steaming onto a perfectly timed Jamie Soward pass, scoring alongside the posts. However, the Eagles were not to be deterred and scored their own long-range try through Michael Robertson. Centre Ben Farrar went through a disappointing Ben Hornby tackle, drawing the fullback Nightingale, to send Robertson on a saloon passage to the tryline. The Dragons finished the game emphatically, with three tries in the final fifteen minutes. Jamie Soward, the Dragons best, scored his own try, after some classic lead-up work and final pass by winger Michael Lett. Brett Morris and Wendell Sailor rounded off the scoring with their tries coming six minutes apart, Sailor's sending the crowd into raptures.

For the Dragons, they have next weekend off and will subsequently hang onto top spot on the NRL ladder, while Manly will cling onto eighth spot following Penrith's defeat on Friday night. The Eagles will be looking to regroup before playing the Sharks at Toyota Stadium next Saturday night for the Steve Rogers cup.

Match Details St George Illawarra Dragons 48 def Manly Sea Eagles 18 Round 18 - Sunday July 12th, 2009 03:00pm Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong Referee: Gavin Badger & Ashley Klein
Sideline Officials: Steve Chiddy & Phil Haines
Video Referee: Bill Harrigan Crowd: 17,692 Halftime: Dragons 24-12

St George Illawarra Dragons 48 Tries: Michael Lett, Brett Morris (2), Jason Nightingale, Wendell Sailor (2), Chase Stanley, Jamie Soward Goals: Jamie Soward (8/9) Manly Sea Eagles 18 Tries: George Rose, Vic Mauro, Michael Robertson Goals: Matt Orford (3/3) Player of the Match 3 Points: Jamie Soward (Dragons) 2 Points: Beau Scott (Dragons) 1 Point: Wendell Sailor (Dragons) Live Commentary Talk about the game as it happens - Dragons v Sea Eagles forum discussion - click here!

Welcome to WIN Stadium in Wollongong for today's blockbuster between the born-again Sea Eagles and the Dragons. Unfortunately State of Origin duties will prevent both sides from being near full-strength. The Dragons will look to stay atop the NRL ladder, while the Eagles will be looking to continue on their good recent form.

Both teams have undergone some positional changes. For the Dragons, Michael Lett comes into the side on the wing, pushing Brett Morris into the centres. Matt Cooper moves from centre to lock, while Nathan Fien replaces Luke Priddis in the run-on side at hooker.

For the Eagles, Kieran Foran moves from the bench to five-eighth, forcing Chris Bailey to lock. Glenn Hall moves from lock to the second row and will be joined by Jared Warea-Hargreaves. Warea-Hargreaves replaces Adam Cuthbertson who moves back to the bench. Shane Neumann, not originally named in the side on Tuesday, fills the remaining spot on the bench.

A massive crowd has packed into picturesque WIN Stadium, with the sun beating down. We will be underway very soon.

DRAGONS: 1. Jason Nightingale 16. Michael Lett 2. Brett Morris 3. Chase Stanley 5. Wendell Sailor 6. Jamie Soward 7. Ben Hornby (c) 8. Dan Hunt 17. Nathan Fien 10. Jon Green 12. Beau Scott 13. Dean Young 4. Matt Cooper Interchange: 9. Luke Priddis 11. Jarrod Saffy 14. Trent Merrin 15. Nick Emmett SEA EAGLES: 1. Michael Robertson 21. Andrew Suniula 3. Ben Farrar 4. Steve Matai 5. Tony Williams 19. Kieran Foran 7. Matt Orford (c) 8. Jason King 9. Matt Ballin 10. Brent Kite 15. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 13. Glenn Hall 6. Chris Bailey Interchange: 12. Adam Cuthbertson 16. George Rose 17. Vic Mauro 18. Shane Neumann

1 min: And we're underway here in Wollongong. Manly will have first use of the ball, as Jamie Soward puts boot to ball.

1 min: Knock-on Manly. Terrible start by the Eagles, Kite knocks the ball on in just the second tackle. Dragons with a great early chance.

2 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Great start by the Dragons! Lett dives over in the corner, after a great pass from Matt Cooper, who now appears to be limping with an ankle injury. The Dragons make Kite pay for that error working the ball off his own line. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 6-0

5 min: Penalty Manly. Dragons caught offside. The Eagles will try to hit straight back after conceding that early try.

6 min: Manly kick to the corner, Williams takes the ball out of the air, but desperate Dragons defence holds him up over the tryline.

6 min: Matt Cooper looks like he's succumbed to that ankle injury and leaves the field. A blow to the Dragons.

9 min: Some more superb Dragons goal-line defence again turns the Sea Eagles away. They will restart with a 20m tap.

10 min: The Eagles again have some good field position with a Dragons error. The last five minutes has all been Manly.

12 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Brett Morris streaks away and races 95 metres to score for the Dragons! Orford's banana kick towards the Dragons posts hit the upright, before Morris picked the ball up and took advantage of the lazy Manly kick-chase. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 12-0

15 min: Knock-on Manly. Robertson drops the ball in front of his own posts and the Dragons are on the attack now, looking to extend their lead.

16 min: Penalty Dragons. Ballin found offside and Soward lines up the penalty goal to put them up by 14.

17 min: PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons Soward pilots the ball between the uprights. St George Illawarra Dragons 14-0

19 min: Penalty Manly. They must score next.

20 min: Penalty Dragons. Manly penalised for holding down.

22 min: Farrar knocks on after King gets his arm free with an offload.

24 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Rose reaches out and bangs the ball down to put Manly back in it! Some enterprising play from the Eagles finally gets their account underway for today. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 14-6

30 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons The Dragons are in again! Matt Cooper, after leaving the field earlier, returns, aided by painkillers, delivers the final pass to Nightingale to score 10 metres in from touch. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 20-6

30 min: We enter the final 10 minutes of the first half, with the Dragons looking like they have the Eagles covered at the moment. Matt Cooper has recovered remarkably.

31 min: Dragons knock on, inviting Manly to score and close the gap as we head towards halftime.

33 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Vic Mauro scores for the Eagles! Ballin delivers an inside ball to Bailey, who sends Mauro on his way to score alongside the posts. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 20-12

37 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons The Dragons again extend their lead through Wendell Sailor, who steps inside Robertson after Soward runs the ball on the last tackle. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful. St George Illawarra Dragons 24-12

39 min: Penalty Dragons. Steve Matai penalised for a flop on the Dragons player. Matai placed on report for allegedly using his knees.

Halftime - DRAGONS 24 SEA EAGLES 12

Halftime here at WIN Stadium in Wollongong, with the Dragons heading to the sheds leading 24-12. The game hasn't reached any great heights and whenever Manly look like getting back into the game, the Dragons kick clear again. The Dragons may run away with this game in the final 15 minutes. It is imperative Manly score first in the second half to be any hope.

40 min: The second half is underway here in Wollongong. The Dragons have first use of the ball.

43 min: Both sides have started the second half well, successfully completing their sets. Manly's last-tackle kicking has left a little to be desired.

49 min: Some touch-football style play by the Dragons ends up with them knocking the ball on. Manly hang on for now.

52 min: Steve Matai limps from the field at the northern end of WIN Stadium. Manly's last-tackle kicking remains non-existant.

53 min: Line drop-out Manly. The Dragons should surely score from the repeat set here.

54 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Chase Stanley scores beside the posts for the Dragons. Soward's selective pass from dummy half sends him through a massive gap. The Dragons should go on with this and rack up some points now. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 30-12

57 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Robertson scores for the Eagles! They're not done yet. An ordinary attempt at tackle by Hornby after Farrar went straight past him, sending Robertson on his way. Conversion attempt by Matt Orford successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 30-18

61 min: Forward pass by the Eagles puts them under more pressure. Every time the Dragons get the ball in the Manly 30m line, they score and now should be no different.

62 min: Manly's goal-line defence repels the Dragons this time and they get a free walk out to the 20m line after Orford takes the kick on the full in the in-goal.

65 min: We enter the final 15 minutes in Wollongong, with the Dragons holding a comfortable 12-point lead. The Eagles have appeared disorganised all day, and would appear unlikely to score twice now.

66 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Soward puts the result beyond doubt, crossing for the try, after Lett delivers a perfect final pass. Soward has been one of the better Dragons' today, which would come as no surprise to many. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 36-18

70 min: We enter the final 10 minutes of the game, with the Dragons in control over the Eagles. They will be looking to put some icing on the cake with a few more tries.

73 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons The Dragons continue the points avalanche as the Big Dell dives over in the corner, picking the ball up on the half-volley, sending the Dragons fans into raptures. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 42-18

77 min: The Dragons will feed a scrum here, with possibly their final set of six for the match. They'll be looking to pile on some more points.

79 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Brett Morris puts the exclamation mark on an emphatic Dragons victory here in front of a near-capacity crowd in Wollongong. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 48-18

It is fulltime here in Wollongong with the Dragons spanking the Sea Eagles by 48-18. It was an emphatic victory and they might be booking their ticket to ANZ Stadium in the last weekend in October.