St George Illawarra remain undefeated after overcoming a robust South Sydney 16-12 at Jubilee Oval tonight, further promoting themselves as early premiership contenders after five rounds.
The Dragons built their win off a very impressive first half effort, where they managed to starve the Rabbitohs of the ball, dominating the possession at 72% in the first half an hour of the game.
South Sydney's defence was sensational despite having minimal ball, continuously repelling the dangerous attacking arsenal wearing the Red V in Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt, with the Bunnies showing tremendous spirit and fight to be only down 8-2 at halftime.
The Dragons came into the match as the form team of the competition and from the outset St George Illawarra showed why they are at the summit, with halves pairing Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt perfectly orchestrating the plays off the strong platform layed by James Graham, Paul Vaughan and co, starving the Rabbitohs of the ball.
Dragons winger Nene MacDonald looked to have opened the account for the home side in the 12th minute, when off a superb cut out ball from Widdop, the big winger looked to have touched down, however opposite Dane Gagai managed to hold him up in goal with a strong scrambling effort from the Queensland representative to deny a certain try.
Underrated centre Euan Aitken then put his name up in lights, when he received some quality early ball from Ben Hunt and then stood up Australian Test centre Greg Inglis one on one and accelerated away to score a brilliant try to get the Dragons' first try of the night.
St George Illawarra continued to dominate possession and MacDonald again looked to have scored, after some more quality play from Widdop and Tim Lafai to put the big winger into space. However the decision to award the try went upstairs, and the Video Referee controversially ruled that Tariq Sims has made contact with Souths number 7, Adam Reynolds in the lead up. Despite the minimal contact and also that Reynolds had a chance to make the tackle, the Bunker ruled that Sims had made contact with the defender and disallowed the try, despite the howls of protest from the home crowd.
Despite being starved of possession in the opening stanza, Adam Reynolds managed to nab a penalty goal late to only trail 8-2 at the break. Coach Seibold would have been doing cartwheels down to the change rooms, considering how much pressure their line was under, with the Dragons left hand side in Widdop, Lafai and MacDonald continuously pushing the Rabbits defence to the limit.
Souths' enthusiasm was quickly extinguished early in the Second Half, when Ben Hunt pounced on a loose offload from Souths backrower John Sutton, and found a flying Matt Dufty to race 70m to score and extend the first half lead to 14-2.
Back to back penalties by the Bunnies were then punished, when Widdop took another penalty goal on offer and the Dragons were looking good at 16-2 with half an hour remaining.
Souths then upped the ante with their defence, forcing errors and getting some time in the attacking zone. Despite the Dragons best efforts the game then burst open in the last 10 minutes, when Bunnies livewire Cody Walker used an old fashioned run around with John Sutton to slice through to score Souths first try of the night.
The injection of rookie Adam Doueihi looked to trouble the Dragons line and the rookie then sent Dragons fans into a sweat, when the bench utility put prop Jason Clark into some space, when Damien Cook identified space to the left and found Walker, who then found the trump card Greg Inglis to score in the corner it set up a thrilling finish.
Doueihi then coolly converted from the sideline to give the visitors a real chance with just minutes remaining. It wasn't to be however, when the man who helped sparked the comeback, Cody Walker had a few minutes to forget, when the five-eighth dropped the ball twice in as many minutes to get the Dragons out of jail.
Despite the loss, coach Anthony Seibold will have been delighted with the effort, and particularly will be ruing the fact they were missing the experienced Sam Burgess, who could have made a big difference if not currently serving a two week suspension.
The Rabbitohs will need to respond quickly, when they face fierce rivals the Roosters next Thursday night, in what promises to be another enthralling contest at the Sydney Football Stadium. The victorious Dragons will now look to keep their winning streak going next week when they host their traditional rivals Cronulla in Wollongong next Friday night.