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Fullback Ben Hornby has scored a hat trick of tries as the St George Illawarra Dragons have run out convincing 42-12 winners over the Cronulla Sharks.
Playing in front of a record Toyota Park crowd of 22,302, the home side conceded early points with the first try to Mark Gasnier [pictured]. Backrower Tony Jensen then scored a runaway try before Hornby crossed for the first of his tries. After 19 minutes, the Dragons held an 18-0 lead.
The Sharks struck back with a try to Matt Bickerstaff and at the break, Saints led 18-6.
An intercept try to Saints winger Nathan Blacklock put the visitors in the driving seat but with a big breeze at their backs, the Sharks replied with a try to Sam Isemonger to take the score to 24-12 in favour of the Dragons.
But from there, Saints held their line before launching their main attack weapons with Hornby and Gasnier crossing for three more tries.
SHARKS 12 Tries: Bickerstaff, Isemonger Goals: Kimmorley 2/2 defeated by DRAGONS 42 Tries: Hornby 3, Gasnier 2, Jensen, Blacklock Goals: Riddell 6/6, Head 1/1
Toyota Park. Crowd: 22,302 (ground record) Referee: Paul Simpkins Video Referee: Tim Mander. Touch Judges: Pat Reynolds, Luke Bugden
By the clock: 0 min: Jason Ryles returning on the bench for the Dragons in jersey number 25. Barrett and Bailey are out. Sharks are as per card. Its Jason Stevens' 200th first grade game. Sharks are running from left to right. Looks like a sellout crowd. Saints to kick off... Kickoff!
6 min: TRY - Dragons. Mark Gasnier shows all the class to break through the backline defence. Conversion Mark Riddell. Dragons 6-0
9 min: TRY - Dragons. Runaway try to backrower Tony Jensen who shows a surprising turn of pace. Follows a bust up the middle of the ruck from Brent Kite and Ben Hornby from half way. Conversion right in front from Riddell is OK. Dragons 12-0
15 min: NEWS - Jason Ryles (Dragons) comes on to the field for the first time since mid-2003.
19 min: TRY - Dragons. Ben Hornby is put into a huge gap by Riddell and runs 60m to score next to the posts. Terrible line of defence from the Sharks. Conversion Riddell. Dragons 18-0
28 min: TRY - Sharks. Matt Bickerstaff runs into a hole close to line. Set up by Brett Kimmorley. Conversion Kimmorley. Dragons 18-6
34 min: NEWS - Dragons survive three repeat sets of six at their line. Sharks with their tails up now.
36 min: NEWS - Dragons reply with a huge bust down the right side from Gasnier and Saints come close to scoring. Both sides lifting a gear now.
40 min: NEWS - Gasnier makes another break down the right side and probably could have gone himself but he passes inside and the ball is knocked on.
HALF TIME: The scoreline and commentary says all Dragons but the Sharks have come back late in the first half to show they're not out of it yet. Possession is almost dead even after Saints dominated early on. Saints have done more tackling but have been more sparkling in attack. Gasnier is killing them down the home side's left flank. Kimmorley is coming into his own and is the key to any resurgence from the Sharks. Dragons 18-6
Second half underway...
42 min: TRY - Dragons. Nathan Blacklock intercepts and run 30m to score under posts. Conversion Mathew Head. Dragons 24-6
46 min: TRY - Sharks. Sam Isemonger barges over to score through some soft defence. Conversion Kimmorley 12m in from touch is OK. Dragons 24-12
NEWS - A southerly buster seems to be on the way with a big breeze now favouring the Sharks.
50-60 min: Still 24-12 to Saints. End-to-end stuff. Sharks applying all the pressure and Saints having some trouble stopping the offloads. Saints reply well however and come within a whisker of scoring following a huge break from Matt Cooper.
61 min: TRY - Dragons. Ben Hornby stretches out and puts down on the line next to the posts. Conversion Riddell. Dragons 30-12
NEWS - Sharks kick out on the full from the re-start.
63 min: NEWS - Matt Rieck (Sharks) forced from the field with what looks like a hamstring. He won't be coming back.
66 min: TRY - Dragons. Hornby gets a hat trick next to posts after showing some great footwork from 15m out. Conversion Riddell. Dragons 36-12
NEWS - Shaun Timmins (Dragons) leaves the field injured and won't be back.
76 min: TRY - Dragons. Gasnier gets a double following a kick from Head which is batted back by Blacklock to an unmarked Gasnier. The Sharks now looking at the clock and playing like a beaten team. Wide conversion Riddell is successful. Dragons 42-12
FULL TIME: Running into a stiff breeze in the second half, Saints have gone from strength to strength to run out convincing winners over the Sharks. The Sharks showed some spirit ay times but were ultimately outclassed by a faster and fitter Dragons' outfit. St George now have the best defence in the League and in the last five matches, have scored 181 points while conceding 53 points. Possession: 50% Tackles: Dragons 290-271 Mistackles: Sharks 45-18 Completions: Dragons 30-23 Offloads: Sharks 24-15 LU man of the match: Lance Thompson (34 tackles, 18 hit ups, 173 metres) ----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - L Thompson (Dragons) 2 - B Hornby (Dragons) 1 - M Gasnier (Dragons) -----------------------------------------