The last few weeks have been anything but smooth sailing for the St George Illawarra Dragons but they scored a much needed win yesterday over the Wests Tigers.
A morale-boosting win, all eyes were again on Dragons halfback Ben Hunt who continues to be criticised for somewhat of a form slump.
The usually vocal Leichhardt crowd were kept rather quiet as the young Dragons forward pack guided the side to victory.
The Tigers can have no-one but themselves to blame, missing numerous opportunities to change the course of the game.
Although they are still a mathematical chance at making the finals, they need to rely on other results.
Errors and penalties galore by the Dragons gave the Tigers ample opportunities but they failed to capitalise.
The first try eventually came and it was the Dragons who would score it.
A length of the field effort started by Luciano Leilua was finished by winger Jordan Pereira.
The low-scoring first-half soon ended as the Dragons went into the break up 6-0.
It was deja vu for Ben Hunt to start the second half; he dropped the kick-off, reminiscent of his 2015 grand final drop.
The Tigers quickly capitalised as veteran and leader Chris Lawrence crashed over to score.
The night went from bad to worse for Hunt; he was the man sent to the sin-bin after the Dragons were pinged for numerous penalties.
Esan Marsters opted to take the two points to level the score up at 6-all.
The Dragons would then have a penalty goal of their own to retake the lead at 8-6.
Much maligned back-rower Leilua then proved his worth; barging over with raw power to score a crucial try for the Dragons.
The Tigers tried to wrestle back control and pick up the pace despite a dwindling clock, but just fell further behind.
Tyson Frizell continued the back-rower scoring success for the Dragons, barging over and getting the ball down.
The Tigers scored a late consolation through Kevin Naiqama as their season now looks over.
Despite the mathematical chances looking slim, Tigers coach Ivan Cleary is not giving up hope of a finals berth.
“The season’s not over,” Cleary said.
“We’ve got two more games to go.
“You can’t control other things but the reality is we are still alive.
“Anything can happen still but really when we started this season, our season wasn’t going to be defined by anyone external, it was going to be defined by what we did.”
Despite a poor game by Ben Hunt, Dragons coach Paul McGregor said he will remain the club’s halfback.
“Ben’s a part of our 17 and he will always be a part of our 17 while I’m coach, he’s our No.7,” McGregor said.
“Benny’s in next door [in the sheds] and he’s not happy with his performance but that’s ok because he’s got next week.
“I said through the week, if criticism was to come to the team, it should come through the coach so leave my players alone.
Player of the Game:
3. Luciano Leilua
2. Tyson Frizell
- Tariq Sims