In a game predicted to be one-sided, the St George Illawarra Dragons threw a spanner in the works with a big 48-18 win over the Brisbane Broncos in front of 48,000 fans at a bright and sunny Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane
The game was thought to be an open and shut case with most tipping a big win for the Broncos, but early on it was clear that the Dragons were there to play and they have restamped their premiership credentials despite a potential injury crisis facing Paul McGregor.
The Dragons opened up the scoring after just five minutes when Gareth Widdop slotted a penalty goal from right in front of the posts after the Broncos were penalised for a high tackle. The home side then levelled things up with a penalty goal of their own through Jamayne Isaako before a second penalty goal put the Broncos into a 4-2 lead.
The Broncos then looked to have swung the momentum with a try quickly after the penalty goal when Kodi Nikorima went straight through a gap in the Dragons defence and found David Fifita backing up on the inside and Fifita scored untouched under the posts. The Dragons hit back almost instantly when Tariq Sims forced an error and was rewarded for the error by getting the first of his three tries of the afternoon. The Red V then began to burn the Broncos defence as they ran in three more tries in the first half.
The first of the tries came through Leeson Ah Mau who had too much strength from close range after being set up by a quick play the ball from Jack De Belin. The Dragons then added another try through Tariq Sims when Ben Hunt chose to run on the last tackle after dummying to kick before playing out the back to Gareth Widdop who found Sims who scored out wide. The final try of the first half for the Dragons was a third to Tariq Sims who had too much strength for brother Korbin and Sims scored, following the conversion the Dragons had a sixteen point lead. The final points of the half was a penalty goal off the boot of Gareth Widdop after Grant Atkins ruled the markers not square.
The opening stages to the second half were an end to end affair but the Broncos couldn't put anything into motion and it was again the Dragons who added another try this time off the back of a scrum. The Dragons spun the ball left off the scrum before Matt Dufty ran across field getting Tim Lafai on the outside of James Roberts and Lafai had too much strength and got over the line.
The Dragons injuries were starting to catch up on them with Jack De Belin succumbing to a leg injury early in the second half which came after James Graham failing a HIA test in the first half.
The Dragons began to tire and the Broncos took advantage of a relieving penalty after the Dragons tried to slow down the ruck. The first of the Broncos second half tries came through Darius Boyd who scored after he had too much speed and found a gap in the Dragons defence which had positioned themselves quite wide which allowed the gap to open up. Isaako missed the conversion across the face of the posts but the momentum was beginning to turn. The home side then added another try which was a costly one for the Red V when Kodi Nikorima stepped his way through and was ruled to have not been held and he got over the line for a try. The cost for the Dragons wasn't just in points but in injury with captain Gareth Widdop re-dislocating his shoulder leaving the Dragons with just 14 fit players.
The injury for Widdop wasn't costly for the Dragons who weathered the storm from the Broncos who themselves were beginning to tire after a big effort in the early stages of the second half. Both sides then blew chances at either end though finally the Dragons cracked the line with ten minutes to play. The Dragons added another try through Luciano Leilua who pounced on a kick from Cam McInnes out of dummy half and Leilua got through to score. The Dragons finished the game with a penalty with five minutes to go before turning on the style on the stroke of half time when Zac Lomax kicked through for Matt Dufty who picked up the ball and scored in the corner. Zac Lomax sealed the 30 point victory with a sideline conversion.
Next weekend the Dragons head to ANZ Stadium to take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs whilst the Brisbane Broncos will be left wondering what could've been after a poor performance to finish the season.