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The Wests Tigers have produced a scintillating
second half performance to defeat the St George Illawarra Dragons 21-12 in
front of 45,631 fans at ANZ Stadium.
The win gave the joint-venture a record 9th straight victory as they continue their momentum into the second week of the finals.
It was very much a game of two halves as the Dragons led 12-6 at half time after a typically disciplined 40 minutes in the style that saw them win the 2010 premiership. The Tigers were far off their best in the first half, reflected by the performance of star play-maker Benji Marshall who had an indifferent game.
It was Marshall who opened the scoring in the 6th minute in bizarre circumstances as Video Ref Russell Smith awarded the Tigers a fortuitous 4-pointer. Marshall appeared to drop the ball but managed to get a toe on it as it bounced, constituting a drop kick. He then regathered the ball after it deflected off Beau Scott before stepping Darius Boyd to score.
The Dragons fought their way back into the game with controlled football and were rewarded in the 17th minute when young hooker Mitch Rein sold an almighty dummy to Robbie Farah to dive over under the posts.
In the 23rd minute Soward got one over his opposite number when he fended off Gareth Ellis before sprinting across field and piercing between Marshall and Matt Utai to streak down the right sideline. He then provided a brilliant offload inside him to Jason Nightingale who scored to give the Dragons a 10-6 lead.
Soward converted a penalty in the 27th minute to give the Dragons a 12-6 lead and the momentum stayed with St George Illawarra for the rest of the first half as the Tigers struggled for continuity.
The Tigers came out firing in the second half as the energetic attack that had them sitting on an 8-game winning streak made a timely return. Beau Ryan finished off a classy team try in the 47th minute and Marshall converted from the sideline to lock the scores at 12-all. It started through Robert Lui who gave an inside ball to Tim Moltzen on halfway and he broke down-field before superbly passing in traffic out to Blake Ayshford who eventually linked up with Ryan to score.
The Tigers continued to test the Dragons who couldn't match the improved intensity of the home side and Marshall gave them a 14-12 lead after slotting a penalty goal in the 52nd minute. Good work from Lui and Chris Heighington put the Tigers on the attack soon after and the pair linked again as Lui gave the final pass to Heighington to score in the 65th minute to give the Tigers a 6-point lead.
Marshall sealed the result with a field goal in the 77th minute before adding a penalty goal just before full time for a 21-12 victory. The win may have come at a cost for the Tigers as centre Blake Ayshford came off late in the game with concussion.
Wests Tigers 21 defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 12
National Rugby League - Finals Week 1 - Friday September 9, 2011 7:45pm
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Referee: Tony Archer and Matt Cecchin
Video Referee: Russell Smith
Touch Judges: Paul Holland and Daniel Eastwood
Halftime: Wests Tigers 6 St George Illawarra Dragons 12
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Tim Moltzen
2 Points - Liam Fulton
1 Point - Mark Gasnier
Wests Tigers (21)
Tries: Chris Heighington, Benji Marshall, Beau Ryan
Field Goals: Benji Marshall (1/1), Robert Lui (0/1)
Conversions: Benji Marshall (2/3)
Penalty Goals: Benji Marshall (2/2)
St George Illawarra Dragons (12)
Tries: Jason Nightingale, Mitchell Rein
Field Goals: Jamie Soward (0/1)
Conversions: Jamie Soward (1/2)
Penalty Goals: Jamie Soward (1/2)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Hello and welcome to tonight's live coverage of the Week 1 final between the Wests Tigers and the St George Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium.
Tigers- Chris Lawrence has been ruled out, Matt Utai replaces him in the centres.
Dragons- Mitch Rein will start at hooker with Dean Young moving to lock. Matt Prior drops back to the bench at the expense of Adam Cuthbertson who will not play.
1 min: KICK OFF! The 2011 finals series is under way as Marshall kicks off for the Tigers and the Dragons have first use of the football.
1 min: Weyman makes a mess of the play-the-ball and the Tigers have a brilliant opportunity inside the first minute with a scrum on the Dragons 30m line.
3 min: Marshall dances down the blindside on the last tackle and toes through a grubber kick which rolls into touch.
5 min: Possibly one of the most bizarre tries you will ever see to Benji Marshall. Video Ref Pending.
6 min: TRY
Unbelievable try to Benji Marshall! He appears to drop the ball as he attempts to kick it but just manages to get a toe on it as it deflects off Beau Scott, back into Marshall's hands and then he has no trouble stepping Boyd to score.
Wests Tigers 6-0
10 min: Marshall puts up a towering bomb but Jason Nightingale defuses it easily. The Dragons have possession on their 20m line.
11 min: Gasnier makes a half break before offloading to Soward who's wrapped up.
13 min: Now Beau Scott makes a half break but loses the ball as he's tackled. Tigers scrum on their 20m line.
14 min: Marshall's kick goes 20m and the Dragons have good field position with possession on halfway.
15 min: Scrum Dragons. The Dragons get a fortuitous repeat set before Moltzen takes Darius Boyd's kick into touch. Dragons with a scrum 10m from the Tigers line.
17 min: TRY
Young Mitch Rein throws a dummy from dummy-half and dives over for the Dragons first try. Soft defence from the Tigers as Farah got caught out at marker.
20 min: Gasnier finding plenty of space against Matt Utai as he makes another half break down the right edge.
22 min: Marshall and Moltzen have some nice interplay as the Tigers run the ball on the last tackle but it breaks down as Matt Groat can't hold an offload.
23 min: TRY
Soward does a number on his opposing #6 as he sprints across field before piercing between Marshall and Utai and then brilliantly offloading for Jason Nightingale inside him.
St George Illawarra Dragons 10-6
27 min: Marshall throws a terrible forward pass out to Lui. The Dragons have the ball on their 30m line.
27 min: PENALTY GOAL
First penalty of the game as Aaron Woods is pinned for a high tackle. Soward converts the penalty goal from 25m out.
St George Illawarra Dragons 12-6
30 min: The kick off is out on the full from the Tigers as Nightingale does brilliantly to have a foot in touch as he takes it. The Dragons have the ball 30m from the Tigers line after the penalty.
34 min: The Dragons are well on top as they are playing the clinical football Wayne Bennett has instilled in their football for the last few years. The Tigers desperately need to improve their ball control if they are to compete for the rest of the night.
35 min: PENALTY GOAL ATTEMPT
The Dragons have another raid at the Tigers line and receive a penalty for a two-man strip. Soward can't convert the penalty goal 10m right of the posts
St George Illawarra Dragons 12-6
40 min: FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT
Soward attempts a field goal from 38m out and it sails right of the posts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 12-6
40 min: That's more like the Tigers! On the stroke of half-time Fulton makes a break off a short pass from Marshall. The Tigers shift the ball left and some good work from Ellis gives the Tigers an overlap before Lui throws a marginally forward pass.
40 min: HALF TIME: The Dragons lead the Tigers 12-6 at half time after a typically disciplined 40 minutes in the style that saw them win the 2010 premiership. The Tigers have been far off their best reflected by the performance of star play-maker Benji Marshall, who despite scoring their only try has had a forgettable first half.
41 min: KICK OFF! The Dragons kick off and the Tigers Aaron Woods takes the first hit up of the second half.
41 min: Dropout Dragons. The Tigers nearly score off their first set as Ayshford sends Ryan away down the right flank but Ryan kicks into the in-goal and Boyd takes it dead.
43 min: Energetic play from the Tigers as they build in attack but Gareth Ellis knocks on.
45 min: 20m tap Dragons. Darius Boyd does well to shepherd a bobbling Tigers kick dead. Replays show the ball clipped Boyd's foot before going out.
47 min: TRY
Moltzen makes a break from halfway and throws a superb pass in traffic out to Ayshford who steps inside and tries to score himself before offloading to Beau Ryan who scores. Marshall strikes it sweet to convert from the sideline.
50 min: The Tigers are looking far sharper in the second half as Nightingale does well to prevent a goal-line dropout.
52 min: PENALTY GOAL
The Tigers receive their first penalty of the match as Nathan Fien is penalised for slowing the play-the-ball down. The Tigers elect to take the two-points from in-front and Marshall makes no mistake to give the Tigers the lead.
Wests Tigers 14-12
54 min: Terrible play-the-ball from Aaron Woods and the Dragons now have a scrum on the Tigers 30m line.
55 min: 20m tap Tigers. Soward puts in a low cross-field kick but the ball bounces dead.
56 min: Scrum Tigers. The Dragons knock the ball down and the Tigers have a great opportunity with a scrum on the Dragons 40m line.
57 min: Tuqiri knocks on in the tackle to relieve the pressure on the Dragons. Tuqiri not having a happy night.
60 min: Beau Ryan spectacularly takes a Soward bomb and does magnificently to stay in the field of play.
62 min: Penalty Dragons. Gasnier makes a break down the right sideline and is tackled high by Gareth Ellis in cover.
63 min: The Dragons shift the ball left with their trademark second-man play but Cooper's no-look pass goes into touch as Brett Morris couldn't get into position. Poor execution from the Dragons.
65 min: TRY
Heighington scores for the Tigers! Lui breaks through and links up with Heighington to put the Tigers on the attack. Marshall shifts the ball right to Lui who puts Heighington into a gap to score.
Wests Tigers 18-12
69 min: Scott offloads in the tackle and it's deemed a knock on. The Tigers have a scrum on their 40m line.
70 min: Bad option from Moltzen as he kicks from dummy half 10m from the Dragons line and it goes dead.
71 min: Hunt drops the ball cold as the Dragons are falling to pieces.
71 min: Ayshford outdoes him as he knocks on cold off the scrum. Dragons with a scrum on their 20m line.
73 min: The Dragons shift the ball left in attack but Cooper can't handle a low Darius Boyd offload and the Tigers hang on.
73 min: Trent Merrin penalised for a strip to relieve all pressure on the Tigers as they now have a tap on the Dragons 30m line.
75 min: FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT
Lui's attempted field goal is charged down by Dean Young to keep them in the game.
Wests Tigers 18-12
75 min: Weyman knocks on and that could be it for the Dragons as the Tigers have the ball on halfway.
77 min: FIELD GOAL
Marshall slots the field goal from 15m out and the Tigers will win!
Wests Tigers 19-12
78 min: Dropout Dragons. Brilliant kick chase from the Tigers as they drive Nightingale back into the in-goal.
79 min: PENALTY GOAL
Soward's dropout goes out on the full and the Tigers get a penalty from in-front. Marshall makes no mistake.
Wests Tigers 21-12
80 min: Soward is hit hard and loses the ball before he gets up dazed and has some push and shove with Bryce Gibbs.
80 min: Full Time: The Wests Tigers have produced a scintillating second half performance to defeat the Dragons 21-12 at ANZ Stadium.