St George-Illawarra have given interim coach Dean Young a victory on debut as the Dragons secured a valuable 28-24 win over a gallant Broncos side at Suncorp Stadium tonight. The win kept the side's slim finals hopes alive, while sentencing the Broncos to their sixth straight loss.
It was former Bronco Ben Hunt who was the star for the Dragons, setting up two tries for the Red V and controlling the ruck superbly from dummy half. Dragons winger Mikaele Ravalawa also continued his tryscoring run, touching down for two tries in another great display from the Fijian winger.
The highlight of the game however was a sensational try to Broncos centre Kotoni Staggs early in the second half. After being staved of possession in the first stanza, Staggs finally received some early ball and then produced a huge fend on opposite number Euan Aitken, before exploding Dragons half Adam Clune off his back to break away. Staggs then sold a clever dummy to Matt Dufty to score one of the tries of the season. Sadly for the Broncos, it was not enough to steer them to a much needed victory.
Both sides came into the match with plenty still to play for in 2020, with the home side desperately trying to avoid the club's first ever Wooden Spoon. The Dragons meanwhile were all out to impress interim coach Dean Young in his first game holding the clipboard.
It was a nightmare start for the home side, when winger Richie Kennar knocked on with his side's first touch after slipping over trying to collect a Corey Norman kick in the first set of the match. St George took advantage when former Bronco Ben Hunt laid on a deft pass from dummy half for Dragons prop Josh Kerr to crash over for the first try. Zac Lomax converted and it was 6-0 after a matter of minutes.
The bad dream continued when the Broncos immediately gave away a penalty for a high tackle from prop Rhys Kennedy to give the Dragons a piggy back downfield. The Dragons then made them pay, when Corey Norman strolled over for a soft try and following Lomax's conversion it was 12-0 after just seven minutes.
The Broncos however responded with two quick tries of their own through winger Kennar who scored in the corner following a classic Broncos sweeping play, with Anthony Milford and Darius Boyd combining to put Kennar over in the corner. This was followed minutes later with a try to interchange hooker Corey Paix, who burrowed over from dummy half to score his first NRL try and all of the sudden the scores were locked at 12 all.
The Dragons looked to have grabbed back the lead when Dragons half Clune kicked in goal on the last looking for forward Jacob Host. Host was ruled to have pushed Broncos centre Staggs in the back trying to get to the ball and the try was disallowed. However Broncos interchange forward Jamil Hopoate was then penalised for hitting Clune late after he kicked the ball. Lomax kicked the penalty goal on offer and St George nudged themselves in front 14-12.
St George then hit the lead before halftime when fullback Dufty produced a superb over the top cut out pass to find rampaging winger Ravawala, who steamrolled over the top of his opposite number in Herbie Farnworth to score a strong try to give his side an 18-12 lead at the break.
After the break prospective NSW centre Staggs brought the crowd to their feet, when the up and coming superstar finally got some early ball out wide to score one of the tries of the season for the Broncos. Staggs then converted to again tie up the scores for the second time in the match.
The Dragons then hit the lead through another penalty goal to Zac Lomax, after Dufty was taken off the ball by Broncos captain Pat Carrigan when he kicked for himself in goal.
St George then struck again when off the back of the penalty goal they marched downfield and off a superb backline play, Dufty and Lomax combined to put Ravalawa over for his 12th try of the season. Lomax then converted and the Red V were ahead 26-12 heading into the final quarter of the match.
Brisbane needed a spark and it came from their rookie half Tom Deardon, who was seemingly caught on the short side on the last tackle. Deardon then turned on a dime and brushed away from two Dragons defenders to score a crucial try with less than 10 minutes remaining. Staggs converted to narrow the Dragon's lead to just four points.
In the final minutes, the Dragons halves came to the fore for the visitors, with both Clune and Corey Norman producing some superb repeat sets to close out the match. The match was sealed when Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue was penalised for a strip right in front of his own posts. Lomax added his third penalty goal of the night to seal a 28-24 win away from home.
The win now takes the Dragons to the edge of the Top 8 but they will need to get on a run if they are to threaten in the last 6 weeks of the premiership season. St George now face the Titans next week at Kogarah on Friday night as they aim for three wins in a row.
Things get tougher for the Broncos, where they now face the defending premiers the Roosters at the SCG following the Dragons vs Titans next Friday.