It was a much improved St George Illawarra side over the one that played in the Charity Shield; taking the lead early and pushing the flashy Storm side all the way in this high quality match.
For the first game of the season, the quality was impressive – Inglis, Slater and Smith immediately back to their best and for the Dragons – it was new buy Jeremy Smith and former Raiders prop Michael Weyman showing the way.
It took a short range field goal from Storm superstar Greg Inglis to win the game in golden point after Cronk missed an earlier attempt.
The match looked over with 10 minutes to go, before a long range Dragons try to Wendell sailor and a tough conversion to Jamie Soward ensured their side remained in the hunt.
After having a horror night, veteran Dragons winger Wendell Sailor pulled out some vintage play to setup an 80m try for Matt Cooper – had big Dell not made this play, his chances of being selected next week would have been very slim.
The first try of the night to Inglis was a classic. The bulky pivot receiving the ball from Cronk 10m out and then running full tilt at Soward in the defence line. Inglis’ collision with Soward sent him hurling into the air, allowing the Storm star to crash over.
While many expected him to play at centre; Inglis played the majority of the match at five-eighth, only when Hinchcliffe came on late was Inglis able to shift wider to centre.
“I thought our attack in the first half was poor but we picked it up in the second half,” Bellamy told the press conference.
“But I thought our defence did really well, it was quite effective.”
Looking much more rigid in defence under Wayne Bennett the Dragons were in the hunt all game. They were probably the better side for the majority of the match, only flashes of brilliance from Slater and Inglis proving the difference.
Dragons fullback Darius Boyd played solidly in his first outing, however half Ben Hornby was limited in his touches and probably didn’t have one of his best nights. The night made worse by his ill-fated field goal attempt in golden point, with Hornby attempting the play from too far out – gifting the Storm field position and then he compounded the error by giving away a holding penalty in the tackle.
With much greater possession, the Dragons certainly had their chances. Several times they were pulled up 1m short of the try line. On other occasions, their attacking plays got slightly mixed up only 10m out. The foundations were there, it certainly looks like they will be a force – they just need a few weeks to gel.
Bennett was seemingly happy with his sides effort after the tough match.
“I was very happy with the effort … the way they gutsed the game out,” Bennett said.
“They stayed in there.
“It’s really hard to coach those qualities so it’s great to see the team do that.”
Bennett predicted his team would improve.
“We can take confidence out of tonight we can compete with the top teams,” he said.
“We’re going to get better than tonight.”
An ideal way for the NRL to start, a hard fought golden point win. Very few errors and a high quality, fast paced game.