Tigers triumph over Dragons in
opening night spectacle

Fulltime: Round 1
Wests Tigers 24 def. St George Illawarra Dragons 15

Match summary:

The NRL season opener lived up to all of the hype as the Wests Tigers defeated the St George Illawarra Dragons 24-15 at Telstra Stadium in an enthralling game.

The Tigers took an early 4-0 lead as Paul Whatuira scored the first of his three tries after six minutes, when the Tigers created great space. Mark Gasnier and the Dragons responded very quickly, scoring the first of his three after 11 minutes, to level the game at 4-all. Following on from the opening exchanges, the Tigers squandered a few chances but went ahead again with a powerful try to Anthony Laffranchi. After 35 minutes the Dragons took an unlikely lead that they carried into half time with another Gasnier try, and a 10-8 half time lead.

With some great end to end play, 18 minutes into the second half the Dragons extended their lead to 14-8 as Gasnier collected his third try, showing very skilled hands to juggle a kick and still dot down. The Tigers tied the match up on 66 minutes as Whatuira scored after a miracle Scott Prince offload.

Trent Barrett broke the deadlock to give the Dragons a 15-14 lead with just seven minutes to go, when he nailed a picture perfect field goal. But the Tigers showed they had guts, as the kick-off hit the goal posts, and Barrett was hit very hard allowing the Tigers to come up with the ball 10 metres out. A Benji Marshall miracle ball put rookie Michael Crockett in the corner with mere minutes to go. Whatuira grabbed his third following frantic Dragons play to try and get the ball back, and sealed a very exciting and brave 24-15 win for the defending Premiers.

Wests Tigers: 24
Tries: Anthony Laffranchi, Paul Whatuira(3), Michael Crockett
Goals: Brett Hodgson 3/5
St George Illawarra Dragons: 15
Tries: Mark Gasnier(3)
Goals: Wes Naiqama 1/3
Field Goals: Trent Barrett

Venue: Telstra Stadium
Crowd: 25,000 (estimate)
Referee: Paul Simpkins
Half time: Dragons 10-8

Live commentary:
Put the stress ball away, stop shaking and turn off that inferior Friday television. The NRL is back for 2006!

0 min: NEWS The Dragons kick the 2006 season off!

3 min: NEWS Liam Fulton is taken off the field on the golf cart with an apparent shoulder injury. Mark Gasnier also down injured briefly.

4 min: NEWS Dragons have given away two penalties already, both sides have made one mistake each.

4 min: NEWS The Tigers make huge metres on attack and force a goal line drop out.

6 min: TRY Wests Tigers
The Tigers create space as the Dragons bounce off tackles creating an overlap, and Paul Whatuira scores out wide. Hodgson misses the kick.
Tigers 4-0

9 min: NEWS The Dragons gain repeat sets as Benji Marshall spills a Trent Barrett cross field kick.

10 min: NEWS The Tigers give away two very quick penalties as the Dragons are hot on attack.

11 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
After some pressure on the goal line Gasnier slips through some tackles and scores out wide. Naiqama misses the conversion. Both teams very enterprising in attack.
4 all.

15 min: NEWS Dean Collis can't quite pull in a Scott Prince chip kick, Dragons gift possession almost straight back, and some players start waving their handbags at each other. Liam Fulton out of the rest of the game due to a dislocated shoulder.

17 min: NEWS Daniel Fitzhenry bombs a certain try out wide as he drops the ball after great Tigers buildup.

18 min: NEWS A decent fist fight is on the cards after the players come together for another bit of push and shove.

20 min: TRY Wests Tigers
Anthony Laffranchi bursts across after a powerful attacking set. Hodgson just misses the conversion.
Tigers 8-4

22 min: NEWS The Tigers are keeping the Dragons trapped down at the wrong end of the field, Prince finds touch mere feet from the corner post.

20 min: TRY Wests Tigers
Anthong Laffranchi bursts across after a powerful attacking set. Hodgson just misses the conversion.
Tigers 8-4

28 min: NEWS Tigers still have the running of the play. No idea why the score says 12-4.

31 min: NEWS Video referee for a potential Dragons try.

31 min: NEWS Try not awarded, ruled a knock on by Greenshields.

33 min: NEWS Dragons hot on attack, putting immense pressure on the Tigers.

35 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Gasnier scores off a kick, Naiqama converts.
Dragons 10-8

39 min: NEWS Ryles is sent to the sin bin for dissent. Marshall carefully checking his jaw.

40 min: NEWS Half time. The Tigers have had the run of the first half and are unlucky to be down 10-8.

To be clear, the score is 10-8 to the Dragons at half time. Apologies for the slight updating issues in the first half. Everything should be all right now.

40 min: NEWS The second half is underway!

43 min: NEWS The Dragons have the early running in the second half, but can't finish.

45 min: NEWS Fitzhenry returns a kick 30 metres to get the Tigers out of a tight situation, but the Tigers get run into touch.

49 min: NEWS Ryles returns to the field, the Tigers unable to take advantage of the Dragons being a man down.

50 min: NEWS The Tigers are making a plenty of mistakes and are gifting the Dragons good field position. Luckily for the Tigers, the Dragons are making enough mistakes too.

54 min: NEWS The Tigers drop the ball as they are hot on attack.

55 min: NEWS Ryles busts up the middle but throws the last pass to Galloway, who knocks on. Dragons on attack.

57 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Gasnier collects a bomb, bobbles the ball and dots down for his third try out wide. Naiqama hits the posts.
Dragons 14-8

62 min: NEWS Gasnier is going to give Marshall nightmares. He has him totally beaten. The Dragons are looking much fitter than the Tigers.

66 min: NEWS Video referee for a potential Whatuira double.

66 min: TRY Wests Tigers
Whatuira scores off a miracle Prince offload. Hodgson finally connects to lock the match up with just over 14 minutes to go.
14 all.

68 min: NEWS Tigers hot on attack, Naiqama cooly lets the ball go dead in goal.

71 min: NEWS The Dragons make a bad mistake and gift the Tigers the ball inside the 40.

72 min: NEWS Hodgson loses the ball as he dives from dummy half at the line.

73 min: FIELD GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons
Barrett kicks the go-ahead point from 30 metres out.
Dragons 15-14

75 min: NEWS The kickoff hits the posts, Tigers recover.

77 min: TRY Wests Tigers
Newcomer Crockett shows his worth to the team with a handy try close to fulltime to snatch victory. Hodgson converts to extend the lead
Tigers 20-15

79 min: TRY Wests Tigers
Kiwi centre Paul Whatuira bags a treble for the night and puts the game beyond doubt. Hodgson fails to convert.
Tigers 24-15

80 min: NEWS Fulltime has sounded and the Tigers begin their 2006 campaign on the right foot, downing premiership favourites the Dragons by 24-15.
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Mark Gasnier (Dragons)
2 - Scott Prince (Tigers)
1 - Paul Whatuira (Tigers)