St George Illawarra have thumped Manly-Warringah 34-4 at Kogarah tonight to wrap up Round 9 of the NRL.
The Dragons appear to be getting their season back on track, with tonights comprehensive victory making them 3 from 5 since their disastrous loss to the Bulldogs on the long weekend. Manly on the other hand will be left scrambling on how to turn their performances around without Tom Trbojevic pulling the strings at the back.
The two sides begun the game looking fairly evenly matched, and they traded blows over the opening 30 minutes through forwards Joel Thompson (9th minute, Dragons) and Josh Kerr (29th minute, Dragons). Right after the Dragons got on the board it looked as if Manly would be firing back as Daly Cherry-Evans blasted upfield and looked to link up with support runners. Support was there, but it was in the form of Zac Lomax, who ran about 15 metres and promptly got it to speedster Matt Dufty who streaked away to score the Dragons second try in as many minutes.
Manly halfback Cherry-Evans had an absolute shocker with his hands, dropping 3 balls cold in the first half alone. It appeared that form had carried over, but a challenge ruled that the ball had been stripped. Manly didn't do much with their attacking opportunity and went blow for blow with the Dragons after getting caught on the last.
The turning point of the match proved to be in the 55th minute when Jorge Taufua was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul on Matt Dufty. The Saints elected to extend their lead to 8 despite being against 12 men, but the decision proved to be the right one when they crossed through Mikaele Ravalawa 6 minutes later.
Manly's performance from that point on indicated they had effectively thrown in the towel. They made error after error and were feeling the full effects of being without star forward Addin Fonua-Blake. The Dragons piled on the repeat sets, but the try came with 7 minutes to go when Zac Lomax intercepted a wayward Manly pass and sealed the match for his side and put the final nail in the coffin for the hapless Northern Beaches side.
The Dragons decided to have some fun with it from that point on and scored 2 tries in the final 4 minutes. Rookie halfback Adam Clune decided to try his luck with a stab kick and the bounce was perfect for halves partner Corey Norman who dived in under the post. In the 80th minute, a high ball was tapped back by Lomax and the Dragons did well to spread the ball to Euan Aitken, who went over virtually untouched and extended the Dragons final winning margin to 30 points.
Next week, the Red V will look to even the ledger with the struggling Bulldogs, whose only win so far in 2020 came against the Dragons. Manly on the other hand face a much tougher task against the in-form Eels. They are at home and will need to improve dramatically if they are to stand any chance of avoiding a fourth consecutive defeat.