By Stewart Moses
St George Illawarra Dragons came away with all important two competition points after a strong 34-16 win over Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles at a slippery 4 Pines Park.
With the bonus of a week off after last weekend’s washed-out game against the Raiders, the eighth-placed Dragons were never headed. They skipped out to a handy eight-point lead inside the opening 20 minutes before scoring right on halftime to take control of the game at 18-4.
The Dragons opened their account in the 10th minute when winger Alexander Lobb swooped on a Manly error from a kick to ground the ball in the southwest corner.
They doubled the lead soon after when former Sea Eagles back-rower Jack Gosiewski finished off a barnstorming 30m diagonal run to score in the identical spot in the 16th minute.
Blacktown scored their first points in the 20th minute when a classy, back-handed offload from the versatile Ben Trobjevic enabled winger Raymond Tuaimalo Vaega to crash his way over in the corner and reduce the gap to four points.
The Dragons still maintained pressure with multiple scrum wins, kick restarts and six-again penalties, before a quick shift to the left finished with an acrobatic try to winger Treigh Stewart which re-established an eight-point lead.
Things went from bad to worse for the Sea Eagles on the stroke of halftime when their attempts to construct some attacking play down the Dragons’ right edge defence went wrong.
A wayward pass was snapped up by Lobb who, from 55 metres out, teased the Sea Eagles’ cover defence before putting support player Tyrell Sloan away to score untouched, giving the visitors a commanding 18-4 lead at the break.
The sin-binning of Gosiewski early in the second half proved pivotal as Blacktown scored soon after through fullback Jake Toby, finishing a quick right shift to score from close range and lessen the gap to eight points with more than 30 minutes remaining.
The Dragons - despite being reduced to 12 men - still conjured up points when a cross-field kick from Cryer was taken in spectacular fashion by Lobb for his second try of the afternoon.
The sin-binning of Tuaimalo Vaega soon after proved telling when the Dragons produced a try from the ensuing set. Centre Ethan Clark-Wood scored in the corner to give the Dragons their biggest lead of the afternoon at 28-10.
The Dragons soon had their sixth try of the game when Sloan found himself on the end of a slick attacking raid down Blacktown’s left edge to score behind the posts for a double. With fifteen minutes remaining and the score-line 34-10, the match was as good as gone for the hosts.
The Dragons’ already formidable forward pack boasting the likes of Poasa Faamausili, Tyrell Faimaono, Jack Gosiewski, and Jackson Ford, was bolstered by the inclusion of back-rower Billy Burns.
Manly were feeling the effects of the unavailability of winger Jorge Taufua, after the former NRL veteran and Tongan international was granted a release mid-week by Manly.
The win was soured by Gosiewski being placed on report early in the second half, which also left his team down to 12 men after he was sent to the sin bin for the incident.
Early in the second half, Blacktown’s efforts to get back into the game - hampered by the halftime loss of experienced NRL centre Brad Parker along with William Swann - weren’t helped with the sin-binning of winger Raymond Tuaimalo Vaega.
The Dragons scored seven tries to three in the impressive win, but the winning margin could have been much greater again with more accuracy off the tee.
With the game in the balance at 22-10 and Blacktown mounting some attacking pressure, the sin-binning of Tuaimalo Vaega proved costly with the visitors scoring two converted tries in his absence through Clark-Wood and Cryer to all but seal the result.
The Dragons will be looking to consolidate their position in the top eight when they host the North Sydney Bears at Collegians Sporting Complex on Sunday, while the Sea Eagles return once more to 4 Pines Park to face the Newcastle Knights on Saturday.