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St George Illawarra have survived a second half comeback to beat the Roosters 14-12 in the 20th ANZAC day clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 

In an historic occasion, the Dragons backed up their efforts against Newcastle last week to set up a 14-0 lead before holding on in the final 40 minutes as the Roosters ran in two late tries to set up a close finish. 

It was the first time the Dragons have beaten the Roosters on ANZAC day since 2018 with strong performances from Ben Hunt and Josh McGuire leading the side to victory.

Hunt was awarded the prestigious spirit of ANZAC medal after his man-of the match performance, the second time the Dragons captain has won the award.

"It's a massive honour on a day like this to receive such a special medal," Hunt said.

Lest we Forget

The Red V were outstanding defensively in the opening 40 minutes with at least four try savers against the Roosters, who fumbled their way through the start of the game to trail 14-0. 

The Tricolours bounced back in the second half with James Tedesco and Joseph Manu enormous in a beaten outfit.

Match snapshot

  • A kick out on the full from Ben Hunt looked like a disastrous start but the Dragons skipper bounced back with a short ball for Francis Molo to cross first in the 11th minute.
  • The Red V aimed up in defence to start the game and were rewarded in the 24th minute when a Hunt cross-field kick was fumbled by Paul Momirovski near the line, allowing Jaydn Su'A to come through for the side's second.
  • Dragons centre Zac Lomax was placed on report in the first half for an alleged crusher tackle on Roosters fullback James Tedesco.
  • The Roosters completed at just 65% in the first half to trail 14-0 at the break after Lomax slotted a penalty goal.
  • The Dragons lost Jack Bird (suspected broken arm) and Jaydn Su'A (ankle) to injuries in the second half. 
  • The Roosters hit back early after half-time with a Tedesco line break enabling for Sitili Tupouniua to cross on the left edge.
  • St George Illawarra looked lost when Bird and Su'A left the field with their last play options a concern to allow the Roosters back into the contest.
  • Roosters centre Joey Manu crossed in the 68th minute to set up the frantic finish.
  • Manu (three line breaks) and James Tedesco (two line breaks and 300 metres) were among the best on field for the Tricolours.
  • It was the 20th match on ANZAC day between the Dragons and Roosters since 2002.

Play of the game

Ben Hunt was in everything but his 77th minute 40/20 came up trumps for the side, who managed to withhold further pressure when the Dragons No.7 pulled off the miracle play to swing momentum. 

Hunt nails a late big 40/20

What they said

“We had every reason to lose that game in the last 20 minutes but they refused to lose. They just hung in their really tight and made big plays when they needed to. The 40/20 was the play-of-the-day but you only get a kick like that if you are still in the game and we had that resilience about us today. Everyone will remember the second half but in the first half we had to defend our line for ages and ages. If we had gone in at 14-6 they obviously get that opportunity": Dragons coach Anthony Griffin. 

Griffin worried about high shots

“I felt like our ‘D’ was on, but we had yardage errors and we just had two soft tries. I didn’t feel like we were overwhelmed, we just couldn’t execute opportunities we had in the first half or second half to peg back the points. We weren’t going to go around them - they were covering that - we needed to go through them, and we just didn’t. We just couldn’t execute it. We were sending out messages to go through them, we identified a couple of spots on both sides that we wanted to attack and we did it sometimes, but we just didn’t do it enough": Roosters coach Trent Robinson.

Robbo talks Suaalii

What's next

The Dragons have a six-day turnaround before another home game against the Wests Tigers at WIN Stadium. Anthony Griffin will likely be without Jack Bird and Jaydn Su'A while Moses Suli battled a knee injury throughout the contest.

The Roosters take on Canterbury at Accor Stadium on Saturday night in a short turnaround for Trent Robinson's side.

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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