The St George Illawarra Dragons have claimed their first win of the season downing the New Zealand Warriors 26-16 at Sunshine Coast Stadium in a scrappy and fiery match to kickstart both side's premiership campaigns.
The Dragons won their first match since the infamous BBQ scandal and turned around a recent poor record against the Aucklanders in a match that wasn't settled until the final 20 minutes. The Dragons came in with 6 club debutants for their opening round clash and seemed to click into gear early with Tyrell Sloan throwing a lovely cutout ball to Mikaele Ravalawa to claim the opening try of the contest. Zac Lomax playing in game number 50 knocked over the sideline conversion to put the visitors up by 6-0. After scrappy play from both sides leading to multiple errors and try-scoring opportunities going astray, a neat set play from Ben Hunt and Tyrell Sloan netted the visitors an early 2 try lead after Jack Bird stormed onto an inside ball from Tyrell Sloan to score next to the posts. Lomax once again made no mistakes and the Dragons marched to a 12-0 lead.
The Warriors would later settle into this match with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak capitalising on poor clean-up work by Sloan and Hunt to score the Warriors' first try of 2022. Shaun Johnson's kick would go to the right of the uprights. The Dragons seemed to have collapsed before half-time when Josh Curran went through some poor St George defence to put Wayde Egan under the posts. Some poor Warriors discipline cost the Warriors before the break with 2 sloppy penalties setting Zac Lomax up for a gift shot at goal. He made no mistakes and put the Dragons up 14-10 at half-time.
Immediately after the break, Shaun Johnson booted a 40/20 (really was a 30/20) to set the Warriors up with prime attacking field position. From there, Eli Katoa barnstormed his way to the line and with SJ's conversion, the Warriors led for the first time in the match. The Warriors from there just seemed to be on auto-pilot with elementary mistakes from reliable winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak giving the Dragons golden field position. Mikaele Ravalawa was giving opposite number Marcelo Montoya nightmares on the right-hand side of the field, powering his way to the line to retake the lead for the Red V.
From the ensuing kick-off, Ravalawa did his best impression of his half-back's infamous 2015 grand final moment and gave the Warriors another prime attacking opportunity. Fortunately for the Red V, this chance went astray. After a crazy early tackle kick from the Warriors deep in their own half. The Dragons took this opportunity with both hands and scored with Mikaele Ravalawa completing his hattrick. Shaun Johnson rallied his side back with an impressive 90m dropout, but unfortunately for him and the Warriors, they allowed the Dragons to march down the field and concede possibly the softest try so far in 2022. Moses Mbye threw a dummy and beat 2 lazy Warriors defenders to wrap the game up.
For the Dragons, they next take on the defending premiers Penrith at Kogarah's Nestrata Jubilee Stadium next Friday in what is sure to be an emotional night as the club pays tribute to immortal Norm Provan who passed away last year. For the Warriors, they stay in QLD as they go down to the Gold Coast and play the Titans next Saturday afternoon in what will need to be an improved performance with the ball completing at just 66%.