For the unbelievers, this was supposed to be the Dragons’ undoing. Sure, they beat the struggling Cowboys, a hapless Sea Eagles and a Knights team who could have called the coal miner from across the fence to chuck the boots on so decimated they were with injuries last week.
But the unbeaten Eels at fortress Bankwest?
Well, that wasn’t much of a problem in a pulsating first half where the Dragons had the help of the eyes in the sky to blast to an 18-0 lead.
“They had a better attitude than us in the first half and it made it too hard for us in the second half,” Arthur said. “They came up with some big tackles at big time.
“I’m disappointed we came undone like that because we knew what the Dragons have come up with in the last four weeks. We’ve got to worry about ourselves; it shouldn’t come down the decisions in the bunker. We scored a nice try by playing the power game through them then we lost our heads and a lost a bit of patience.”
There was nothing contentious about Jack Bird’s first NRL try in the Red V, racing onto a rocket of a pass from the superb Dufty, who also threw the final ball for the third with a cut-out for Mikaele Ravalawa, his fifth try in four games at Bankwest Stadium.
In between, the little No.1 was awarded a penalty try of his own when he split the defence and kicked past opposite number Gutherson, only for Nathan Brown to drag him back as he tried to sneak around the goalpost to ground the bouncing ball.
The decision infuriated Eels captain Gutherson, who would have felt just as aggrieved when the bunker ruled Bryce Cartwright had passed off the ground when Parramatta had used their captain’s challenge to contest a knock-on call. The Dragons scored their third try off the next possession.
Somehow, 18 points didn’t seem like it was going to be enough a few minutes into the second half when Sims was sin binned for repeated infringements in the ruck, sparking the Eels’ first points when Nathan Brown set up Isaiah Papali’i.
But despite their line being under siege for much of the half, the Dragons showed the type of resilience their fans haven’t seen for a long time.
And those same fans broke out into song in the final minutes after Zac Lomax’s penalty goal and Dufty’s final try announced them as genuine finals threats.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 26 (Matt Dufty 2, Jack Bird, Mikaele Ravalawa tries; Zac Lomax 5 goals) defeated PARRAMATTA EELS 12 (Isaiah Papali’i, Clint Gutherson tries; Mitchell Moses 2 goals) at Bankwest Stadium. Referee: Grant Atkins.
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