Ty Williams scored an intercept try for the Cowboys after just seven minutes, the North Queenslanders then proceeding to dominate possession. The Dragons however settled and defended well before in-form centre Matt Cooper put the home side on the board.
Cowboys debutante David Faiumu then struck back late in the first half as the Dragons maker defence went to sleep. At the break, the Cowboys were 10-6 in front.
But the news wasnt all good for the Cowboys who lost Glenn Morrison with a sternum injury as the veteran forward was taken to hospital for X-rays.
The Dragons also had their share of injuries with Shaun Timmins being forced from the field with a shoulder injury, but was able to return in the second half. Centre Mark Gasnier was also sidelined, limping off with a knee injury in the second half, as players from both sides were hitting the deck at regular intervals.
After the break, the Cowboys went further ahead with a try to Matt Bowen in the 48th minute.
St George Illawarra finally lifted a gear and hit back with tries to David Howell (65th minute) and Ben Creagh (75th minute) to get within two points.
A spirited charge from Saints saw them come within a whisker of scoring on numerous occassions, but the Cowboys were able to hang on for a well deserved victory.
Scorers: DRAGONS 12 Tries: Cooper, Howell, Creagh Goals: Head 0/3 defeated by COWBOYS 14 Tries: Williams, Faiumu, Bowen Goals: Hannay 1/3
WIN Stadium Referee: Tony Archer Video Referee: Paul Simpkins. Touch Judges: Paul Holland, Russell Turner
By the clock: 0 min: Players on the field as Lance Thompson leads the Dragons out on a cool night. The Dragons to kick off. Cowboys running South.
7 min: TRY - Cowboys. Ty Williams intercepts and scores an easy try. David Howell (Dragons) seemingly passing the ball straight to him from close range. The Wollongong crowd are stunned. Conversion Josh Hannay OK. Cowboys 6-0
12 min: NEWS - Cowboys have shown up to play and are enjoying loads of possession (75%), but apart from the gimme try, the Dragons are defending well.
17 min: NEWS - Cowboys getting three or four repeat sets at the St George goal line but are unable to come up with any points. Injury to Glenn Morrison (Cowboys) and Ben Hornby (Dragons) following a collision. The doctor is called on and Morrison is stretchered from the field in a brace. Kevin Campion coming on as replacement. Interestingly, Morrison is taken into the Dragons dressing room, suggesting some concern for the Cowboys forward.
22 min: NO TRY - Dragons denied by video referee. Daniel Holdsworth 'scores' from dummy half after Mark Riddell charged at the line in the previous ruck. Riddell penalised for play-the-ball infringement.
26 min: NEWS - Shaun Timmins (Dragons) in all sorts of trouble with a shoulder injury and immediately leaves the field. Replaced by Justin Poore. Cowboys still making in-roads with Paul Rauhihi leading from the front.
29 min: TRY - Dragons. Matt Cooper busts through and scores. Follows video ref scrutiny over possible obstruction. Conversion attempt from Mathew Head, 15m in from touch, is wide. Cowboys 6-4
32 min: NEWS - Morrison (Cowboys) has been diagnosed with a sternum injury and unlikely to return. Timmins (Dragons) getting a shoulder massage and a return is on the cards. Possession favours Cowboys 63% but the Dragons starting to gain some momentum.
37 min: NO TRY - Dragons denied by video ref after Ben Hornby is unable to put the ball down cleanly. Follows Saints getting their first repeat set as the Cowboys are forced into a line drop out.
39 min: TRY - Cowboys. David Faiumu scores in his first match in the NRL. An easy try scored against the run of play. Conversion Hannay unsuccessful. Cowboys 10-4
HALF TIME: The Cowboys rewarded for dominating possession early on with Matt Bowen, Paul Bowman and Paul Rauhihi leading the way. Dragons tiring following a truckload of tackling and perhaps a little unlucky to be 6 points down... but only have themselves to blame for opening up late in the stanza.
Tackles: Dragons 193-118 Mistackles: Dragons 25-9 Hitups: Cowboys 110-71 Offloads: Cowboys 11-3 Sets: Cowboys 24-20 Completions: Cowboys 20-15 Penalties: Dragons 5-4 Possession: Cowboys 62% Score: Cowboys 10-4
Second half underway. Dragons running north to south. Cowboys kicking off...
44 min: NO TRY - Cowboys knocked forward and the referee orders a 20m re-start. Cowboys again getting repeat sets.
NEWS - Glenn Morrison taken to hospital for x-rays. Mark Gasnier (Dragons) limping off the field. Shaun Timmins back on the field.
48 min: TRY - Cowboys. Matt Bowen scores in the corner. Follows more ball and repeat sets as the Dragons give up possession. Paul Rauhihi again involved in the lead-up. Conversion Hannay is wide. Cowboys 14-4
53 min: NEWS - Gasnier has a knee injury and is unlikely to return. Reece Simmonds (Dragons) has blood coming from the nose after copping a stray boot and is blood-binned.
58 min: NEWS - A quick passing game from the Cowboys is getting the better of the home side, but plenty of time to go with the Dragons only needing to complete their sets. Currently Saints are unable to apply any sustained pressure.
65 min: TRY - Dragons. David Howell scores out wide. Cooper and Hornby combine to make a break and in the next ruck, Head kicks in for Howell to score. Conversion from Head is waved away. Cowboys 14-8
68 min: NEWS - Dragons on the attack as the Cowboys are falling off tackles. Saints look certain to score with a three-man overlap but Holdsworth puts it down and the Cowboys are back in possession.
71 min: NEWS - Again, Saints are all over the Cowboys and this time it is Lincoln Withers who cruels the opportunity with a knock-on.
73 min: NEWS - Matt Bowen (Cowboys) limps off the field. Dragons attacking the line. Dean Young comes within a whisker of scoring. In the next play, Paul Rauhihi saves the day for the Cowboys by defusing a kick through.
75 min: TRY - Dragons. Ben Creagh scores 10m in from touch. Follows a kick early on the tackle count. Conversion attempt from Head just shaves the upright and is unsuccessful. Cowboys 14-12
FULL TIME: Underdogs Cowboys have come away victorious in a close but extraordinary match. Late in the piece, the Cowboys received a controversial scrum feed and then, with the match in the bag, Leigh McWilliams (Cowboys) elected to kick as the full time hooter sounded.
Full praise to the Cowboys who withstood a late charge from the Dragons. With both sides scoring three tries each, the match was ultimately decided by the lone goal of the match from Josh Hannay in the 7th minute.
Full time stats: Tackles: Dragons 344-282 Mistackles: Dragons 37-23 Hitups: Cowboys 198-164 Offloads: Cowboys 21-10 Sets: Cowboys 45-43 Completions: Cowboys 36-30 Penalties: Dragons 8-6 Possession: Cowboys 56% Score: Cowboys 10-4
Standouts: TACKLES - HIT UPS - METRES GAINED Dragons Matt Cooper 21 - 14 - 153m Justin Poore 22 - 18 - 180m Brent Kite 31 - 19 - 139m Lance Thompson 31 - 18 - 158m Cowboys Paul Rauhuhi 15 - 23 - 218m Luke O'Donnell 32 - 19 - 149 Paul Bowman 19 - 15 - 121m Mitchell Sargent 30 - 15 - 135m
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - P Rauhihi (Cowboys) 2 - P Bowman (Cowboys) 1 - M Cooper (Dragons) -----------------------------------------