St George Illawarra have broken their three-game losing streak with a comprehensive 30-14 win over the New Zealand Warriors on Friday night.
The Dragons, without three of their biggest attacking weapons, were far too good for the Warriors in Waikato. St George Illawarra weren’t quite at their best but in truth they didn’t need to be against a poor New Zealand side.
Still without Josh Dugan (cheekbone) and Gareth Widdop (knee) through injury, the Dragons’ outside backs ran amok even without centre Euan Aitken (hamstring) on the back of a dominant and powerful forward display.
The Warriors started brightly and opened the scoring through Ben Matulino. The prop, playing his 200th game for the Warriors, made the most of an over-read in defence from the Dragons to stroll over the line from a Kieran Foran pass.
Kalifa Faifai Loa, in for his first game of first grade for the season, scored the try of the game that started on their own 30 metre line to get the Dragons level after 20 minutes. A strong run and offload from Nene Macdonald allowed Faifai Loa to break towards half way. He then offloaded back to his opposite winger who continued the movement before linking with Tim Lafai, who found Faifai Loa in support again to score out wide.
For as difficult as that try was, the Dragons’ next three minutes later was equally as simple. Joel Thompson isolated Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson in the defensive line and powered his way over to score from a flat Cameron McInnes pass.
Lafai extended the lead through a penalty goal before he crossed for a try of his own. This time it was clever work from Josh McCrone who opened up space on the short side after feigning to go to the open, with Lafai offered a simple passage to the try line.
But just as they were cruising the Dragons gave up a scrappy try a minute before halftime to allow the Warriors back into the game. Back to back penalties helped the Warriors march downfield before Thompson fumbled a Johnson grubber, with the loose ball flicked up to Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to reduce the deficit to 18-10 at the break.
Any fight the Warriors had was extinguished 10 minutes into the second half when Macdonald scored. Faifai Loa touched down for his second 10 minutes later to extend the lead before Taane Milne celebrated his birthday with a try to see the score blow out to 30-10 which was no more than the Dragons deserved.
If anything the scoreline flattered the hosts, with Nicoll-Klokstad scoring a late consolation for the Warriors.
The timing couldn’t have been better for the Dragons to snap their three game winless run. St George Illawarra have the bye next weekend before a home clash with the struggling Wests Tigers.
It was another impressive win for the Dragons who remain entrenched in the NRL’s top five as the State of Origin period looms.
St George Illawarra Dragons 30 (Kalifa Faifai Loa two, Joel Thompson, Tim Lafai, Nene Macdonald, Taane Milne tries. Tim Lafai three goals)
New Zealand Warriors 14 (Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad two, Ben Matulino tries. Shaun Johnson goal)
at FMG Stadium, Waikato
Leader man of the match: Tim Lafai (Dragons)
Dragons’ next three: BYE, Tigers (home – ANZ Stadium), Bulldogs (away – ANZ Stadium)