St George Illawarra Dragons were 31-6 winners over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park on Sunday.
The Red-and-Whites scored five tries in the victory much to the fanfare of the 20, 273 in attendance.
Head Coach Paul McGregor was forced to make an emergency change during the team warm-up following winger Jason Nightingale going down with planta fasciitis in his foot.
The New Zealand international was replaced by Peter Mata’utia on the flank who was joined by returning captain Ben Creagh.
The Dragons captain replaced Mike Cooper who had been omitted with a hamstring strain.
The Dragons had not conceded a four-pointer in over 80 minutes of football leading into the encounter but were forced to absorb some early attacking ventures by the Bulldogs early on.
However, the hosts were undeterred and managed just that before countering with an early lead through hooker Mitch Rein’s smart-thinking offload to fullback Josh Dugan in the tenth minute.
Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop converted to make it 6-0.
The Dragons had the opportunity to further their lead minutes later when the five-eighth’s kick put through centre Dylan Farrell from thirty metres out.
Unfortunately, the three-quarter miscued the final planting of the ball having done the hard work of chasing the ball down with a blistering run down the right edge.
The Dragons remained undeterred by this setback and continued pressing forward in search of points and found themselves rewarded near the interval.
The homeside’s initial strike occurred when halfback Benji Marshall found space courtesy of a galloping run through the visiting line and subsequent offload out wide to winger Peter Mata’utia.
Moments later second-rower Tyson Frizell etched his name onto the scoresheet with a simple charge-and-barge across the stripe.
Widdop converted both attempts to make it 18-0.
Disappointingly, the Dragons defensive wall was finally breached following second-half play resuming when centre Josh Morris scored in the 49th minute.
Bulldogs halfback Josh Hodkinson then converted to make it 18-6.
This was compounded moments later by news Frizell had been placed on report for a high shot on Tim Browne.
Fortunately, the hosts responded resolutely through the actions of second-rower Joel Thompson who carved his way through the visiting defence to score in the 56th minute.
Widdop converted to make it 24-6.
The Dragons extended their points margin when Marshall successfully fired away a field goal with twelve minutes remaining.
This however did not deter Widdop from setting-up centre Euan Aitken with a neat grubber to collect and plant in the 71st minute
Widdop followed-up with another conversion to make it 31-6.
St George Illawarra Dragons 31. Tries: Dugan, Mata’utia, Frizell, Thompson, Aitken. Goals: Widdop (5/5). Field Goal: Marshall (1/1).
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6. Tries: Morris. Goals: Hodkinson (1/1).