St George Illawarra showed it will be a force to be reckoned with come finals time, dismantling finals aspirants Parramatta 40-14 in Saturday night’s round 25 NRL match-up at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
The Dragons ended the Eels’ three-match winning streak and dealt their finals hopes a huge blow in the blow-out result, which was highlighted by a hat-trick to former Broncos and Wallabies star Wendell Sailor.
The win assures the Dragons a spot in the top eight and moves them ahead of Brisbane into fifth place, but the Broncos can reclaim their position with a win over the Bulldogs on Sunday.
In tonight’s other fixture, North Queensland notched consecutive wins at home with an upset 22-10 result over an injury-hit Canberra side in Townsville.
The Cowboys snapped the Raiders’ three-game winning streak with a four-tries-to-two display spearheaded by Johnathan Thurston and hooker Aaron Payne.
Thurston scored a try and made another while Payne tore Canberra up down the middle of the ruck as the home side raced to a 16-0 half-time lead that was rarely threatened in the second half.
The loss leaves the Raiders vulnerable in a tie for seventh with one round remaining and a host of teams in with a shot of making the eight.
St George Illawarra started the match with a bang, racing to an 18-0 lead after just 20 minutes courtesy of tries to Dan Hunt, Ben Creagh and Mark Gasnier.
Sailor’s first try three minutes before the break handed the Dragons a 24-0 lead at half-time, and Nathan Brown’s men went on with the job in the second half despite letting in soft tries with the result sewn up.
Brown it was a strong performance in the lead-up to the semi-finals.
“We came here obviously pretty confident if we played some good hard tough footy and we ran the ball in the right spots we could create some chances – and to the guys credit we put a couple of reasonable halves together,” he said.
Hunt and Creagh had huge games for the Dragons with 16 hit-ups each to go with 13 and eight tackles respectively.
The loss leaves Parramatta on the outside looking in to the top eight, and needing a win against the Warriors and results to fall its way next weekend to have any hopes of making the finals.
The Dragons play in a mouth-watering clash against the Roosters next weekend, with the boys from Bondi needing a win to secure fourth spot, while a Dragons victory could see them get a home final.
Dragons 40 (W Sailor 3, D Hunt, B Creagh, M Gasnier, M Cooper, J Morris tries; M Gasnier 4 conversions)
Eels 14 (L Burt 2, F Mateo tries; L Burt conversion)