St George Illawarra suffered a rare off day on Sunday, going down 24-10 to a resurgent South Sydney.
The Dragons were far from their best at ANZ Stadium. It was easily their worst performance of an excellent season so far, given their charge to the top of the NRL table after nine rounds.
St George Illawarra also have injury concerns over Jack de Belin who left the field late on with a rib injury and Ben Hunt. While the halfback finished the game Hunt had battled on with leg and sternum problems.
The red V’s afternoon got off to the worst possible start. They conceded a try in the opening minute to Hymel Hunt before Angus Crichton had South Sydney 10-0 in front after just six minutes when he crawled his way to the line.
The Dragons started to work their way into the game and enjoyed a mountain of possession and field position. But their attack lacked fluency with the Dragons unable to break South Sydney’s line.
An Adam Reynolds penalty goal gave the Rabbitohs a 12-0 half-time lead before another two-pointer midway through the second half had Souths 14-0 in front.
St George Illawarra needed a spark and, despite a number of chances while camped at South Sydney’s end, it was a long-range Tyson Frizell effort that got the Dragons back in the match.
Sam Burgess couldn’t handle a Reynolds pass, with Frizell scooping up the loose ball and racing 80 metres to cut Souths’ lead to 14-4.
But Souths winger Campbell Graham’s try five minutes later summed up St George Illawarra’s afternoon. A Reynolds grubber kick close to the Dragons’ line could have bounced anywhere off Gareth Widdop’s shin, but somehow bobbled square across the Dragons’ try line allowing Graham a simple touch down.
The Dragons refused to quit with Frizell crossing for his second try with five minutes to play.
But it was Greg Inglis who appropriately had the final say in the NRL’s Indigenous Round clash, gifted the final four-pointer when Matt Dufty slipped in defusing an attacking kick from Reynolds.
The Dragons remain top of the NRL table after 10 rounds and head to Mudgee for their home clash with Canberra next Sunday.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 (Hymel Hunt, Angus Crichton, Campbell Graham, Greg Inglis tries. Adam Reynolds four goals)
St George Illawarra Dragons 10 (Tyson Frizell two tries. Gareth Widdop goal)
at ANZ Stadium
Leader man of the match: Tyson Frizell (Dragons)
Dragons’ next three: Raiders (home – Mudgee), Panthers (away), BYE