Veteran flanker Wendell Sailor answered his coaches call tonight, stepping up his involvement for the Saints in the absence of State of Origin stars, big Dell getting a double as the the Panthers were dusted 38-10.
The brave crowd at WIN Stadium were in shock early, as a fired up Panthers side started well and looked like they were ‘on’. But such is the knife edge momentum swings in Rugby League today, two quick fire tries to St George Illawarra against the run of play had them skipping out to a nice lead.
With both sides missing key men from up front, the likes of Civoniceva and Lewis for Penrith and Weyman, Poore and Creagh for the Dragons, it was the lesser known Dragons pack that put their hand up and gave the likes of Hornby and Soward to do their thing. Coach Bennett had no doubt instructed Wendell Sailor to come in-field and help where possible, big Dell highly involved for his side.
After the initial softening up period, the 2 tries against the run of play seemed to warm the Dragons up. Defensive monster Beau Scott continues to amaze, his driving, punishing defence continues to be near NRL best and he played a good role in offence tonight, scoring a difficult try for his side and getting into good position for the most part. Playmaker Soward was again at his best, his agility, certainly on the final tackle option gives the Dragons so much.
Several times the Panthers rushed Soward, only for the creative half to change direction easily and pick another option.
The other standout for the Saints continues to be Brett Morris, the potentially Belmore bound boy was irresistible when he touched the ball. His kick returns were lethal, generally busting the first and second tackles and getting massive metres.
The Panthers, while soundly beaten shouldn’t walk away too disheartened. They were missing key men tonight and really lacked a good bounce of the ball. Their early energy was good, but several final option passes just wouldn’t stick. Jarrod Sammut threatened several times early, only for the last pass to fall to ground as support arrived. Sammut was peppered early in defence, the diminutive fullback missing a bomb as Hornby flew through to score, but quickly made up for it when he stopped a certain try from the Dragons beside the posts.
Sammut smartly stripping the ball loose for his side, but injuring his hip shortly after and leaving the field.
Lachlan Coote was immediately slotted into fullback and did a good job for his team under constant pressure. New half Luke Walsh was quiet tonight and struggled off the boot, but this could be put down to a forward pack that was being pushed back in front of him. Wade Graham was highly involved and as usual, a key component to his sides offence.
Graham scoring points and breaking through the line when he ran direct.
So the Dragons continue their surge towards the NRL Minor Premiership with a solid victory in Wollongong, and the Panthers will quickly lick their wounds after a night where they couldn’t get a single thing to go their way.
Next week, the Dragons are away from home to face the Titans in Queensland in yet another test for them and the Penrith side will fancy their chances away to the Wests Tigers.