Hunt haunts former club as Dragons defeat bumbling Broncos

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St George Illawarra Dragons v Brisbane Broncos

New halves pairing Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt starred as the Dragons cruised to a comfortable 34-12 win over a lacklustre Broncos outfit at Jubilee Oval in front of over 14,000 fans.

The Dragons and Broncos suited up for what was the first official game of the 2018 season - and it showed. Both sides struggled in the opening stages of the clash as it soon became a question of who would shake off their pre-season rust the quickest. The first points of the night came when Jordan Kahu took advantage of an early penalty to send his side out to a 2-0 lead.

Shortly after the Dragons levelled up the scores when Gareth Widdop opted for the two points following a relieving penalty. An offside call in the 16th minute then allowed the Dragons to extend their lead by another two points. It was the Broncos, who appeared to have crossed over for the first try of 2018, only for referee Matt Cecchin to rule Darius Boyd's cut out pass to Corey Oates forward.

Errors sabotaged both sides' chances of gaining any real momentum and it was through an Oates mistake that the Dragons posted the first four-pointer of the night. Former Bronco Ben Hunt nabbed his first try-assist in red and white when Tyson Frizell grounded the halfback's deft grubber kick.

Hunt almost starred nine minutes later when he put a perfect kick inside for his halves partner Gareth Widdop. The five-eighth caught it on the chest and was only denied after being ruled by referee Cecchin as offside off the kick. The St. George Illawarra side appeared to be finding their groove, while a 50% completion rate saw the Broncos trail 10-2 at the break.

Despite worrying signs in the first half, it was Brisbane who opened the scoring in the second, courtesy of a slick Jamayne Isaako flick pass which was taken by teammate James Roberts.

Nevertheless, any real hope of a comeback was immediately dashed when a Matt Lodge pass was snatched by a scheming Hunt. The Dragons halfback raced away and scored under the posts to give the home side a 16-6 lead with 30 minutes remaining. A penalty goal in the 56th minute extended the Red V's lead to twelve before Euan Aitken barged through the Brisbane defence to score minutes later, pushing the margin to eighteen points.

Roberts had a double for the visitors four minutes later after Kodi Nikorima gave Boyd enough space to send the flying centre over out wide. Yet errors continued to plague the Broncos' chances of victory and poor defence in the 73rd minute gifted Dragons prop Jack de Belin with an easy four-pointer to seal the win.

Veteran Jason Nightingale scored a painful try in the corner in the 77th minute to see the Dragons run off convincing 34-12 winners over a disappointing Broncos team. 

New Dragons halves pairing Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt combined beautifully on numerous occasions in a good sign for Red V fans. Meanwhile, Brisbane duo Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima struggled with game management and will need to take greater control if their side is to perform well in 2018.

Next week the Dragons face a stiff challenge against the Cronulla Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Thursday night. Brisbane, however, prepare for an even greater task as they attempt to bounce back against the North Queensland Cowboys in the 'Queensland derby' at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

St George Illawarra Dragons 34 - Brisbane Broncos 12

Venue: Jubilee Oval
Crowd: 14457
Halftime Score: St George Illawarra Dragons 10 Brisbane Broncos 2 Players of the Match:
3 points - Gareth Widdop
2 points - Ben Hunt
1 points - Leeson Ah Mau

Tries: Tyson Frizell, Ben Hunt, Euan Aitken, Jack de Belin, Jason Nightingale
Field Goals:
Conversions: Gareth Widdop (4/5)
Penalty Goals: Gareth Widdop (3/3)

Tries: James Roberts (2)
Field Goals:
Conversions: Jordan Kahu (1/2)
Penalty Goals: Jordan Kahu (1/1)

See how it happened in our Match Centre