South Sydney continue their strong run of consistency and impressive trial form with a close victory over a full strength St George Illawarra side in Sydney. In a high quality affair compared to other trial games being played around the country, Souths proved they do have the attack to compete with the Top 4 sides in the NRL and look to again be serious competitiors for the NRL Premiership.
Playing his first game at home since returning to Souths in the offseason, Wing came up with the winning play when it mattered most as the Rabbitohs stole victory from the gallant Dragons in front of 25,127 fans.
Trailing 20-18 with five minutes to go, Wing attacked the line, stepped through and then twisted out of a Brett Morris tackle to ground the ball in the 75th minute for a 22-20 lead.
“I think I was a little bit lucky … it just opened up for me,” said Wing of his effort which sparked a bigger than usual celebration.
“It was a lot of relief (to score). There is a real good team spirit here, a lot of unity.”
Wing was loudly cheered all night, but the former Souths junior has urged supporters not to consider him the “saviour”, adding his biggest impact will be the experience and maturity he can bring in those clutch games.
“Some other guys put on brilliant plays that had absolutely nothing to do with me,” he reasoned.
“My best contribution out there was just try to settle everyone down a little bit.
“To stop them from talking (behind the tryline), have a breather and just think about the game plan and get back on track.”
In a see-sawing battle, Mark Gasnier scored a second half double to help lift the Dragons back into the contest.
He scored in the 45th and 57th minutes to turn a 12-6 half-time deficit into a 14-12 lead.
Souths full-back Fetuli Talanoa regained an 18-14 lead when he sprinted 25m to complete a superb break by half-back Eddie Paea with just under 20 minutes remaining.
But a blindside dart by Michael Lett led to the Dragons regaining a buffer, Jamie Soward sprinting 40m to complete the play to score his second of the night as Ben Hornby converted from the sideline for a 20-18 lead with 15 minutes to play.
Souths led 12-6 at the main break after five-eighth Ben Rogers set up his side’s two opening tries to Germaine Paulson and Yileen Gordon, while Soward won a foot-race with Nigel Vagana to score the Dragons first-half four-pointer.
While disappointed with the loss, Dragons coach Nathan Brown rated his side’s 2008 performance better than their 16-14 win last year in which they lost Gasnier for most of the season with a pectoral injury.
“We did not win the game but I thought we played a lot better this year than last year when we won the game and we got through will all our players in tact,” said Brown.
“We showed enough signs to say we can start the year well.”
Dragons prop Ricky Thorby looks set to miss the opening round, put on report for a dangerous lifting tackle on Souths centre Yileen Gordon in the 28th minute.