While the Dragons have recruited well, they still need some time to gel as a team it seems.
Souths on the other hand have built up a strong squad in the past few years and the group has really developed well, their combinations in this game sounding warnings for all opponents. Sure, it’s only a trial game – but Souths didn’t look too rusty and even got expansive on occasions, looking very slick.
South Sydney were enthusiastic from the first whistle and played a physical, dominating style that rarely let the Dragons get any fluidity. The combination of of John Sutton and Chris Sandow in the halves performed well, as did new face Colin Best – getting a double in this game. Their job made easier by rolling Souths forwards.
John Sutton had a hand in all three of the South Sydney tries, he relieved the pressure off Sandow nicely and got involved at the right times.
It was the same for Souths’ new fullback Rhys Wesser – it was vintage Wesser as he hit the line well and was a handful in attack all night. He had some nervous moments in defence, but for the most part slotted into the side beautifully. Souths look like a team that has played together for a long time and on this performance will go a long way in 2009.
The Dragons, go away with plenty to work on from this game. Their forwards didn’t dominate enough against the tough Bunnies pack, with Jeremy Smith and Dean Young in particular getting frustrated with the lack of thrust their team was offering.
Luke Priddis was up to his old tricks, giving away penalties that really hurt the Dragons and didn’t add a lot of creativity around the ruck. Neville Costigan wasn’t getting involved enough and Darius Boyd was under constant pressure at the back, rarely allowed to break the line or get into open space.
The only Dragons try came from a fortunate charge-down and Wesser grounding error, other than the lone tyr the St George Illawarra side didn’t really threaten in attack. On a positive note, halfback Matt Head got through the game without trouble and will be much more potent when the forwards give him the room.
Wayne Bennett wasn’t too worried about the loss, preferring to iron out the kinks in a trial, before the regular season, however the Dragons might not be the physical force that Bennett was trying to create through his ‘hard head’ recruits; Costigan, Smith and Weyman.
Souths showed last night, that the new Dragons can still be dominated in an arm wrestle.
Souths prop Roy Asotasi who copped a severe head knock, played down the victory. “Last year we won both trials and we thought we were better than we were,” he said.
But regardless, this win will ensure the Bunnies hit the regular season with a good dose of confidence. Their defence was first rate and they looked much more creative and willing in attack, with plenty of linebreaks and input from new boys Colin Best and Rhys Wesser when they needed the spark.
SOUTH SYDNEY 18 (C Best 2 N Merritt tries; I Luke 3 goals) beat ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 6 (B Scott try; J Soward goal) at ANZ Stadium. Refs: T Archer, G Badger. Crowd: 25,871.