Mike Cooper takes the ball up:        NRL Rugby League, Telstra Cup Round 1, St George Illawarra Dragons v Wests Tigers at Sydney Olympic Stadium, Sunday March 9th 2014, Digital image by Colin Whelan copyright © nrlphotos.com

Dragons Claw Past Tigers

The St George Illawarra Dragons were 44-24 winners over Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park on Sunday.

The Red-and-Whites came back from 12-nil in the first-half with second-rower Tyson Frizell scoring twiceto start the season on a high.

Head Coach Steve Price made several changes to the starting line-up with Dragons new recruit Mike Cooper making his debut for the Red V after being named on the interchange bench. 

The prop joins fellow forward Dan Hunt who drops to the bench in lieu of Tyson Frizell who starts alongside Jack de Belin in the pack with Bronson Harrison omitted from the team.

The Tigers came out strong with centre Pat Richards sprinting over the line in his first touch of the football giving the visitors a four point advantage in the fifth minute.

Richards converted his own try to take the score to 6-0 after six minutes of play.

Dragons winger Brett Morris lost the ball forward in the ninth minute allowing Tigers fullback James Tedesco to run the ball to the line to put another four points on the board.

Richards successfully converted to take the visitors score to 12 with the Dragons yet to score.

It took the hosts six minutes to reply with a try from Wales international Tyson Frizell who bargedacross the line from just under the sticks in the 16th minute.

New recruit and five-eighth Gareth Widdop took kicking duties successfully converting to close the gap 12-6.

Dragons forward Jack de Belin was taken from the field in the 17th minute with a cork in his thigh.

Tigers Captain and hooker Robbie Farah ducked through the Dragons defence in the 20th minute to put the ball down with the video referee ruling that was insufficient evidence to prove otherwise.

Richards successfully converted to give the visitors a 12 point lead.

The 24th minute saw Dragons Captain Ben Creagh cross the chalk to put another four points on the scoreboard.

Tigers utility Liam Fulton was taken out buy a Tedesco knee and went down with concussion before being removed from the field on the medi-cab.

Widdop kicked to convert from the eastern sideline 21 metres out to take the homeside’s score to 12 with a converted try separating the two sides.

Three penalties against the Tigers within two minutes set a precedent for the Dragons allowing them to get an advantage and get another set of six when Tedesco knocked on in an attempted regather in the 30th minute.

It took less than a minute for the Dragons to break the Tigers defence and take the ball over the line in the form of New Zealand international Gerard Beale.

Widdop successfully converted from the right touchline to level scores at 18-all.

Tigers forward Aaron Woods was placed on report for a high tackle against Dragons winger Brett Morris in the 36th minute.

The Dragons looked unstoppable challenging the visitor’s defence but were unable to break before the halftime siren sounded with Widdop taking the penalty goal from the 20 metre line.

The 43rd minute saw five-eighth Gareth Widdop break the Tigers line and join with halfback Michael Witt who planted the ball over the line for first points in the second half.

Widdop showed off his kicking prowess when he took the conversion and gave the Red V a six point advantage.

The visitors answered back four minutes later when Tigers utility Martin Taupau fell over the line to be awarded a try by the video referee when there was no evidence to suggest the ball was not grounded.

Richards continued to prove his worth when he successfully converted to leave the Dragons in front by two points at 26-24.

Widdop worked well under pressure when he placed a chip kick for Witt in the in-goal area only to go down with a dislocated shoulder knocking the ball forward before Quinlan’s try was disallowed in the 54th minute.

The 59th minute saw Dragons utility Tyson Frizell cross the line for his second try of the match.

Widdop displayed impeccable kicking skill when he successfully converted to give the Red-and-Whites an eight point lead.

A Dragons scrum forty metres out from the Tigers line proved beneficial for the homeside when it set them up for a try in the form of hooker Mitch Rein in the 65th minute.

Widdop’s kicking was flawless when he converted from 19 metres out to give the Red V a comfortable 14 point advantage.

It took the Dragons 12 minutes to break the Tigers defence with winger Jason Nightingale slipping through the line to pass the ball on to young fullback Adam Quinlan who planted the ball over the line.

Widdop converted to take the score to 44-24.

St George Illawarra Dragons 44 defeated Wests Tigers 24.

St George Illawarra Dragons 44. Tries: Frizell (2), Creagh, Beale, Witt, Rein, Quinlan. Goals: Widdop (7/7). Penalty Goal: Widdop (1/1).

Wests Tigers 24. Tries: Richards, Tedesco, Farah, Taupau. Goals: Richards (4/4).