The St George Illawarra Dragons have temporarily put themselves back atop of the NRL ladder with a classy 24-10 victory of an error-ridden North Queensland Cowboys in front of a healthy crowd in Townsville
The St George Illawarra Dragons were looking to bounce back from a lacklustre perfomance last weekend against the Cowboys and they started off the game in the best possible fashion when they opened the scoring after just five minutes. The opening try was set up by a good short ball from Dragons halfback Ben Hunt onto Matt Dufty who turned on the footwork and sliced through a gap in the middle of the field before finding Jason Nightingale who scored.
Ill-discipline from the Dragons let the pressure off the Cowboys as the home side was piggy backed up field by penalties before Johnathan Thurston surprised many when he elected to take the penalty goal attempt despite trailing by 6 points. Johnathan Thurston converted the penalty goal before to close the gap to 6-2 after just 12 minutes. The Dragons looked to switch off with some poor play helping the Cowboys upfield including their fourth penalty conceded in a row with referee Adam Gee issuing a sin bin warning. The Cowboys again elected to take the two points but the penalty attempt hit the uprights and a Dragons knock on gave them good field position. The Cowboys were given a bonus off the first play when Jack De Belin was sin binned for yet another penalty given away by the Dragons and the Cowboys were able to add another penalty goal to bring the score back to 6-4.
The Cowboys were able to take advantage the extra man during the time Jack De Belin was in the sin bin although they could only manage just the one try in that time despite mounting copious amounts of pressure. The try came through veteran Gavin Cooper when he went into dummy half and looked to go right before darting over to the left and after the JT conversion the Cowboys had a 10-6 lead.
The Cowboys continued to mount pressure but errors at costly times put the pressure back onto themselves and just after the half hour mark Matt Dufty was again able to turn on the sparkling footwork when he stepped his way through the line and despite a desperate effort from Te Maire Martin, Dufty was able to get going again and score under the posts to level the scores and Gareth Widdop put his side in front with his conversion.
Pressure was still mounting on the Dragons defence as the cowboys forced back to back repeat sets but yet again the Cowboys gave up possession cheaply with errors costing themselves field position and putting themselves under more pressure. The final error of the half for the Cowboys was a costly one with the Dragons able to again mount pressure and score points when Ben Hunt sliced through the middle of some backtracking Cowboys defence before finding Tariq Sims who had to fight his way to the line in a tackle with Te Maire Martin.
The Dragons were able to extend their lead soon after the resumption of play when a midfield bomb came off for the Dragons after Hunt's kick was cleaned up by the Dragons and then a second kick out to the wing set up Jordan Pereira to score on his NRL debut and after a comprehensive review by the officials in the Bunker, the green lights were put up and the Dragons lead 24-10.
Just after the hour mark the Cowboys crossed the line but were denied by initially a live No Try decision from referee Adam Gee and then again by Ashley Klein in the bunker who ruled an accidental offside by the Cowboys although they were given a reprieve with a penalty coming their way for an escort. The Cowboys continued to mount pressure but the story of the night was error after error and it continued right up to the full time mark where they ironically finished the game with an error.
Next week, the Cowboys play host to a confident Newcastle Knights side on Friday whilst the Dragons have a big clash up against the Sydney Roosters next Sunday afternoon.