As far as spectacles go, the Dragons versus Bulldogs game last Sunday was one best forgotten.
The pressure on coach Michael Maguire eased a notch this afternoon after the Wests Tigers upset the St George Illawarra Dragons 16-8.
The Tigers dominated a bunch of statistics but it wasn’t until late in the game that they pulled clear. In doing so, they secured their second win of the season.
It didn’t start that way however with the Dragons on top early. They went ahead after five minutes through a Zac Lomax penalty goal.
Just three minutes later, they extended their lead. After their right-side play yielded no results, Blake Lawrie and Corey Norman swung it left. Jack Bird drew Tommy Talau and Cody Ramsey was over in the corner.
The Tigers then had some chances to score. Via penalties, set restarts and a forced drop out, the Tigers had four sets on the Dragons’ line but couldn’t cross. At that point, the Dragons looked well on top.
However, after 20 minutes, Lomax left the field with a thumb injury and the game slowly started to change.
With just over 15 minutes remaining in the half, Adam Doueihi put Daine Laurie through a gap with a questionable pass. A Luke Brooks cross-field kick was tapped back to David Nofoaluma and Talau was in for a try. Doueihi converted from the sideline and the Tigers had tied it up.
The Dragons edged ahead not long later when Corey Norman kicked a penalty goal. It stayed that way at the break with the Dragons holding on to a slender 8-6 lead.
The Tigers led the line breaks, offloads and defensive statistics but their last-tackle options had let them down. The scramble from the Dragons had proven enough in the first 40 minutes.
After a no-try ruling early in the second half, the Tigers pounced seven minutes in. From a scrum-base play, Doueihi and Laurie combined nicely to put debutant Zac Cini in for his first try in the NRL. The absence of Zac Lomax on the Dragons’ right edge was having an impact.
Doueihi missed the conversion but the Tigers had taken the lead.
The Tigers’ confidence was building and after losing the battle of the middle in the first half, their dummy-half running had the Dragons’ defence on the back pedal.
It was Doueihi and Laurie again who put the Tigers into an attacking position. Only a desperate ankle tap from Norman on Doueihi saved a certain try.
From the ensuing set, with just over 15 minutes remaining, the Tigers extended their lead. After some lead-up work from Brooks, Laurie put Joey Leilua into a bit of space and he pushed off Jack Bird to score. Doueihi’s conversion gave the Tigers an eight-point lead.
Tigers fans were expecting a heart-stopping finish but it didn’t really eventuate. A disappointing bomb from Ben Hunt caught the Dragons offside with ten minutes to go and they didn’t recover.
Michael Maguire’s team fully deserved the win and controlled field position with the match on the line.
Anthony Griffin now has his hands full after three straight losses from the Dragons. His team couldn’t match the Tigers’ intensity and the 44 missed tackles is a cause for real concern.