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Underdogs St George Illawarra Dragons have withstood a second half comeback from the Sydney Roosters to win 24-20 at Aussie Stadium today.
The ANZAC day match had everything for the fans as both sides on put some sparkling attacking football and spirited defensive efforts.
Saints ambushed the Roosters in the opening minutes with a 40/20 kick from hooker Mark Riddell which resulted in try after three minutes. With Saints dominating the ruck area, they scored again and after seven minutes, it was 12-0 with the Roosters yet to touch the ball.
Riddell then barged forward to score under the posts and after just 12 minutes, Saints had raced away to an 18-0 lead.
The Roosters recovered and struck back to score when Hodges found room out wide and then again when Brett Finch was awarded a controversial try in the corner.
Replays show Finch losing the ball and then placing it down on the dead ball line. The decision from Video Referee Mick Stone to award the try baffled all observers. While it was perhaps the worst video referee decision of the year, its fortunate that it didnt dictate the outcome of the match.
St George Illawarra had the final say in the first half with what turned out to be decsive movement down the right flank with Amos Roberts kicking ahead and Trent Barrett regathering to score 10 metres in from touch.
At half time, the Dragons held a 24-8 lead.
The Roosters lifted another gear in the second half and the match was there for the taking following tries to Shane Hegarty and skipper Brad Fittler.
With 20 minutes to go, the Roosters only trailed by four points and the young Dragons forwards looked dead on the feet. With more possession, the home side was growing in confidence and looked likely to go on with it.
But incredibly, Saints found something in reserve and were able to hold the Roosters out.
In a nail-biting finish, it was the Dragons who were finishing the stronger to score an unlikely victory against the 2002 premiers.
Friday 25 April 2003 ANZAC DAY match Aussie Stadium Referee: Shayne Hayne Penalties: Roosters 11-6 Crowd: 26,014
Scorers: Roosters 20 Tries: Hodges, Finch, Hegarty, Fittler Goals: Fitzgibbons 2/4 Dragons 24 Tries: Firman, Nero, Riddell, Barrett Goals: Riddell 4/4
League UnlimitedPlayer of the year points: 3 - Luke Bailey (Dragons) 2 - Mark Riddell (Dragons) 1 - Craig Wing (Roosters)
By the clock:
ANZAC Day ceremonies currently underway. Kickoff soon. Kickoff!
1 min: NEWS - Dragons get a 40/20 from the first set of six courtesy of Mark Riddell.
3 min: TRY - Dragons. Brett Firman under the posts after the Roosters came up fast off their line. Firman simply dummied and raced through to to score. Conversion Riddell. Dragons 6-0
7 min: TRY - Dragons. Chris Nero scores out wide after Saints get repeat sets of six. Trent Barrett getting involved in almost every play and the Roosters have yet to touch the ball. Conversion from Riddell an absolute ripper. Dragons 12-0
12 min: TRY - Dragons. Riddell barges forward to score trademark try after picking out fullback Minichiello. Follows error from Hodges and the Roosters look like they've been ambushed. Conversion right in front Riddell. Dragons 18-0
20 min: TRY - Roosters. Hodges Scores out wide following repeats sets. Plenty of action in a fast paced match as Roosters hit back. Conversion Craig Fitzgibbons unsuccessful. Dragons 18-4
NEWS - Amos Roberts (Dragons) on report for lifting tackle.
29 min: TRY - Roosters. Brett Finch claims a try out wide after leaping after a Fittler kick. He is awarded the try despite obvious replay evidence that he placed it on the dead ball line. A shocking decison - video ref Mick Stone must now be in the firing line because there is no way that the try should have been awarded. Conversion Fitzgibbons unsuccessful. Dragons 18-8
38 min: TRY - Dragons. Barrett scores after he regathers a kick from Amos Roberts who made a break down the right flank. Conversion 10m in from touch Riddell is successful. Dragons 24-8
HALF TIME: Roosters coming back after being earlier stunned by a committed Dragons outfit. The Dragons' try on the half time bell may be the difference come fultime.
44 min: TRY - Roosters. Shane Hegarty takes a ball on the chest from Finch to score 10m in from touch. Conversion Fitzgibbons is good. Dragons 24-14
57 min: TRY - Roosters. Fittler scores next to posts aganst some tired looking defence. Rosters getting plenty of possession and coming back strongly. Conversion Fitzgibbons. Dragons 24-20
FULL TIME: Saints have withstood a tremendous comeback from the reigning premiers to score an unlikely victory. Saints managed to go up a gear towards the end and finished up playing all over the Roosters. Special mention to Dragons front rower Luke Bailey who defended hard all afternoon as well Amos Roberts who chased down a number of line breaks out wide.