Match Summary The St George Illawarra Dragons have claimed the annual ANZAC Cup after running out convincing 26-6 winners over the Sydney Roosters today.
Following a moving opening ANZAC ceremony and an impressive fly over from a RAAF F-18 fighter jet, it was match favourites the Roosters that looked shell-shock from the opening whistle. In contrast, rank outsiders the Dragons threw recent poor form out the window to produce what was easily their best game of the year.
Following a week of rain in Sydney, the match was played on a heavy ANZ Stadium track. But the damp weather held off long enough to provide an entertaining contest for the holiday crowd of over 20,000 people.
The Dragons were on fire early, flying out of the blocks to score two converted tries in the opening five minutes of play. Firstly through half back Ben Hornby who pulled down a bell ringer to score next to the posts, and then to winger Jason Nightingale who continues to impress out wide.
The Roosters struck back in the 20th minute to trail 12-6, Anthony Tupou bursting through from 30 metres out. But that would be last time the tri-colours would trouble the score board.
With their forwards running hard on both sides of the ruck, and the halves combination of Jamie Soward and Hornby calling the shots, the Dragons were able to score again and post an 18-6 lead at half time.
The Roosters lifted in the second half, but an exceptional defensive effort from the Dragons, both in the forwards as well as in the backs, saw the Roosters kept scoreless in the second half.
A converted try in the 62nd minute to winger Brett Morris and a Soward penalty goal in the 70th minute put the Dragons 20 points ahead, and the match beyond doubt.
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Jamie Soward (Dragons) 2 Points: Justin Poore (Dragons) 1 Point: Ben Hornby (Dragons)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome to ANZ Stadium at Homebush for the annual Anzac day clash between St George Illawarra Dragons and Sydney Roosters.
Weather: 18 degrees C. There's a bit of rain about but a chance of it clearing on what looks like a heavy track. Teams: Dragons have a few changes, Roosters as per the card. DRAGONS: 1. B Morris, 2. J Nightingale, 19. M Gasnier (c), 20. J Morris, 3. C Stanley, 6. J Soward, 7. B Hornby, 8. J Poore, 9. D Young, 10. J Ryles, 16. J Saffy, 12. B Creagh, 17. B Scott. INT: 11. K Reynoldson, 13. S Webb, 14. S Woolford, 15. D Hunt. ROOSTERS: 1. S Perrett, 2. A Roberts, 3. I Soliola, 4. S Sa, 5. S Kenny-Dowell, 6. B Anasta, 7. M Pearce, 8. M O'Meley, 9. R Brown, 10. N Myles, 11. W Mason, 12. A Tupou, 13. C Fitzgibbon (c). INT: 14. L Paea, 15. D Shillington, 16. M Aubusson, 17. J Aubusson.
An army helicopter has dropped the Anzac Trophy. Players getting ready to come onto the field. Army and navy bands are entertaining a fair looking crowd of around 20,000. Last Post and National Anthem to come. Kick off will at around 3:15pm local time.
The RAAF F-18 flies over to conclude the ceromonies, and it looks like the football is about to start. The Roosters to kick off... KICK OFF!
3 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Ben Hornby leaps above Perrett to score next to the posts. Perfect up-and-under from Jamie Soward coming down just in front of the goal line. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 6-0
5 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Jason Nightingale scores in the corner after Josh Morris catches a cross-field kick from Hornby. Morris on the spot, pushes off a couple of defenders and finds Nightingale in support. Sideline conversion attempt by Jamie Soward is a ripper. St George Illawarra Dragons 12-0
7 min: From the restart Roosters kick out on the full! Nightingale putting his foot over the dead ball line and catching on the full. Dragons on the attack again.
10 min: Roosters resist the raid and finally find themselves with some possession and in good position. Dragons defence holds at the other end.
15 min: Roosters with a third repeat set. Dragons second line drop out in a row. But Roosters knock-on.
20 min: TRY Sydney Roosters Anthony Tupou steps through some ordinary defence to run 30m and score under the posts. Conversion attempt by Craig Fitzgibbon successful. After being ambushed early on, the Roosters now appear to be on the ascendancy. St George Illawarra Dragons 12-6
25 min: Roosters aim their attack at Nightingale's wing and a clever kick from Braith Anasta. Nightingale defuses the situation with a neat catch and Dragons are off the hook.
29 min: PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons Soward makes no mistake from 30m out and 15 wide of the uprights. Follows a penalty against Riley Brown for a high shot on Brett Morris. St George Illawarra Dragons 14-6
33 min: Dragons with another opportunity with Soward kicking into the in-goal for Nightingale, but the kick is too long. Follows the Roosters giving away another penalty.
34 min: Possible TRY to Roosters... Video Ref looking. VERDICT: NO TRY and penalty to Saints. Amos Roberts ruled to have taken out Nightingale on the kick-chase.
38 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Josh Morris just too strong out wide, forcing his way past two defenders to score. Conversion attempt by Soward unsuccessful. Follows some sustained pressure with the Dragons muscling up across the park. St George Illawarra Dragons 18-6
Half time: Dragons 18-6 Saints have done well to snuff out what looked like a Roosters comeback mid way through the half. Soward's kicking game has been excellent and five-eighth looks to suit him. Hornby doing almost everything right at half back. The Dragons forwards are all stepping up with some great runs on both sides of the ruck. Centre Josh Morris and winger Nightingale finding room out wide. The Dragons kick-chase has been exceptional and definitely a feature of their first half performance. Roosters looking a little gun-shy in defence, allowing their opposites plenty of room just wide of the ruck. A few players trying hard but overall they have all the work to do in the second half. Dragons dominating with 59% possesion and an upset looks to be on the cards. No injury reports from the sheds.
Second half underway...
45 min: Roosters with the early possession as the Dragons make a couple of handling errors. A charge down from Dragons forward Dan Hunt defuses a kick from Anasta. Roosters then penalised as Anasta tries to pull back Hunt in the race for the ball.
52 min: Roosters launching another raid at the Dragons line, but the defence hangs on and the ball is passed into touch in front of the unmarked winger.
57 min: This time it is the Roosters turn to hang on with the Dragons attacking the line, a chip kick caught in the in-goal by a Roosters defender. Dragons kick-chase again proving to be top shelf to keep the Roosters at bay.
62 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Brett Morris scores behind the uprights, diving on a grubber kick from Simon Woolford. Set up by some work from Soward in the previous play where he kicked ahead twice, Perrett played at the ball to restart the tackle count for Saints. Conversion attempt by Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 24-6
64 min: A huge bust down the right side by Amos Roberts who is caught from behind by Josh Morris just when it looked certain the Roosters would score. Desperate defence from Saints sees them penalised but ultimately holds the Roosters out and brings an end to the raid.
69 min: A massive hit on Mark O'Meley from Justin Poore sees the ball jolted loose and Saints earn possession. O'Meley takes exception to being tackled and we almost have out first dust up of the afternoon.
70 min: PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons Soward puts Saints further ahead, kicking 25m out and right in front. Roosters penalised for taking the ball off a tackled player St George Illawarra Dragons 26-6
73 min: Woolford kicks out on the full from dummy half and the Roosters will an attacking opportunity from half way. But alas, a handling error, this time from Willie Mason, sees any chance go begging.
76 min: Final stages now as the pitch is looking decidedly muddy in the centre. A few handling errors creeping in from both sides. Dragons defence still up the face of the Roosters.
78 min: HELD UP - Nightingale turned on his back in the corner.
79 min: Roosters with last use of the ball. Scrum packing down 30m out from the Dragons line.
Full time: Dragons 26-6 Dragons with 55% possession in the end. Roosters were simply outplayed from the opening whistle but had plenty of effort from the likes of Mason and Anasta. Dragons led throughout for a much needed win. Comprehensive victory and too good across the park in both defence and attack. A big defensive effort from Saints saw the Roosters kept scoreless in the second half. Dragons prop Justin Poore one the best today and he was well supported by the entire pack, in particular Jason Ryles. Halves Hornby and Soward were outstanding while Nightingale and Josh Morris were the pick of the outside backs. An all-round solid team performance from the red and whites.