The confidence St George Illawarra players gained from back-to-back golden point victories against Brisbane and Newcastle gave them the belief to snatch a last-gasp 12-10 win over Manly at WIN Stadium on Saturday night.
Rookie winger Mikaele Ravalawa secured a fourth consecutive win for the Dragons when he swooped on a Ben Hunt grubber kick to score in the 78th minute after centre Tim Lafai had missed a penalty goal that would have levelled the scores just two minutes earlier.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor admitted it had been a tough match to watch but said: “They can keep winning late if we keep winning them”.
McGregor was unhappy with a lopsided second-half penalty count against his side, who were forced to make 72 more tackles than the Sea Eagles.
However, he was proud of the effort by his players, who fought their way back into the game through defence after Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans put his side in front with a 59th minute try.
Hunt lays the match-winner on for Ravalawa
“There was a lot of resilience in what we have done,” McGregor said. “We really didn’t get much go our way tonight.
“Every time we built momentum around the ruck we didn’t get anything for it, we brought line speed and we got no reward for that.
"There was a 6-0 penalty count in the second half so to find that desire and that resilience in our defence when we needed to and to have that energy at the right time of the game you get them rewards and them wins.”
Veteran prop James Graham led the way in defence after the re-start following Cherry-Evans’ try and it set the tone for the other Dragons forwards to follow.
“It was a good group effort,” Graham said. “We saw an opportunity there to put some pressure on with our defence and credit to the boys for doing that.
“We have been in a few tight games this past month and managed to find something to get the wins so that is a really positive sign to have the composure to come up with the play for the try at the end and not get frustrated, not to overplay too much.
“It was very intense, the first half especially. It would have been easy for us to throw in the towel but we stuck to our plan and got home at the end there.
“I’d like to think that even if we hadn’t won those games we would still have the confidence and the belief that we were going to come up with the win.”
Hunt and Dufty combine for the opener
Hunt laid on both Dragons tries with kicks, with fullback Matt Dufty pouncing on a grubber in the 17th minute and Ravalawa doing the same two minutes before fulltime.
“They kept putting the fullback in the line and it just presented an opportunity,” Hunt said. “It was one of those games where our attack was a bit scrappy and they were defending really well so I felt that our best opportunity was just to kick in behind them.
“There was no panic, we just had to fight to try and find something, and we had to do it with our defence. We just wanted to kick down there end and just try to ramp up the defence.”