Bulldog Brad Morrin has possibly put himself on the sideline for several weeks with a shocking attack on Timana Tahu. Bulldog Morrin biting the Eels on the arm in full view of Channel 9 cameras – replays painting Morrin in a severly bad light.
The Eels looked the better football side, but couldn’t put the nagging Bulldogs away for most of the night. The bite from Brad Morrin late in the first half probably gave the Eels more motivation to kick on with the game – ensuring more venom and purpose in their defence hits.
When the Eels had the ball in Bulldogs territory – they looked a threat on most occasions, chosing impressive final tackle options – Tim Smith and Brett Finch kicking and passing to perfection.
The Bulldogs archillies heel was in the forwards, Michael Hagan had the Eels turning the ball back on the inside centre field – making a mockery of the centre field defence for the Bulldogs, with the Eels running in at least 2 tries in this department.
In the second half it was a controlled and grinding style from the Eels – obivously told to kick early in their sets and play field position. Tackle 4 kicks from Finch and Smith were pinpoint and saw plenty of time spent in the Bulldogs 30m zone – a style that the Eels haven’t displayed all year, it looks a good sign for the Top 4 hopefully Parramatta outfit.
The Eels outside backs really dominating tonight, the size of Ben Smith and Timana Tahu overpowering the littler Bulldogs men in Cameron Phelps and Darryl Millard. Eels flanker Kris Inu having a quality match, with some sublime touches and deft chips on several occasions. The young and confident Kiwi – winning the match for the Eels with his final desperation try.
The Bulldogs meanwhile won’t be too heartbroken by tonights loss – down on personnel, the Canterbury side was still in the contest until the end. Their ability to compete and sometimes win matches after playing only average football is amazing. A good trait heading towards the finals, as their style suits the Top 8 intensity required.
The fallout from the Brad Morrin biting incident could hurt the Bulldogs – if the NRL judiciary makes an example of Morrin the aftershocks could hurt the club. It was an ugly incident and no team wants a biter in their ranks, most of all the players playing around him.
The Eels will breathe a little easier, as they face several teams in the Top 8 snapping at their heels and in the weeks ahead they face the Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos – two major forces in 2007.
Next week the Bulldogs face the Canberra Raiders at Telstra – a match in which they will be confident. The Raiders brigade not having too much success away from home.
St George Illawarra Dragons 20 def Newcastle Knights 4
In an extremely sloppy affair, the St George Illawarra Dragons had enough points in them to capitalize on plenty of possession – eventually overpowering a woeful Knights side in Newcastle. Both sides playing to their position on the ladder, with a skill level well below the NRL Top 8 standard this year.
In an unusual sight, the Knights were playing at home with plenty of seats still vacant in the stadium – however the smaller than usual local crowd were treated to inspiring defence by the Knights in the first half with the home side repelling set after set, facing a deficit in possession of 70% at the end of period one.
The Dragons now leapfrog Newcastle and several other clubs to move into 11th place on the NRL table with 18 points after the win.
The Knights are stranded on the same points in 14th after four successive losses, but with a disastrous points differential their finals chances are now almost obsolete.
Dragons halfback Jamie Soward directed his side superbly in a dominant opening half, with the red and whites securing double the amount of possession to Newcastle but only grabbing a 10-0 lead with tries to Soward (18th minute) and Dan Hunt (29th minute).
Newcastle’s defence was valiant but the players were victims of their own poor execution, with handling errors and errant passes gifting the Dragons ideal field position.
Livewire Newcastle fullback Kurt Gidley ignited the home side’s second half when he somehow scored in the corner after just four minutes as Mark Gasnier tried to drag him over the sideline.
Gidley had to wait several minutes to receive his four points, video referee Phil Cooley handing the decision back to Jared Maxwell who awarded the try despite hints of a double-movement and doubts over the grounding and field of play.
Newcastle’s Cooper Vuna almost reduced the 10-4 deficit in the 62nd minute but winger Josh Morris managed to drag his leg out before the Knights winger could ground the ball.
Gidley continued to threaten to produce a boilover, pulling off try-saving tackles, one-on-one strips and setting up numerous opportunities by both hand and boot.
But the Dragons finally iced the win when fullback Ben Hornby stepped around the defence on a second-man play to put young centre Chase Stanley across in the 70th minute.
Winger Tom Hewitt added a late try for the Dragons in the 73rd minute with a 95m untouched solo effort from a Gidley cross-field kick.
Newcastle’s loss was compounded by a left shoulder dislocation to veteran centre Adam MacDougall, which is likely to end his season.