ST GEORGE Illawarra halted a three-game losing streak and handed the Warriors their fourth straight loss in as many appearances in Waikato with a 30-14 win on Friday night.
The visitors trailed 6-0 after 12 minutes but produced a commanding first half performance, leading 18-6 before Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s try on halftime gave the hosts a sniff at the break.
With Gareth Widdop sitting on the sideline, Kurt Mann produced his best performance in Dragons colours while Tim Lafai possibly did the same with the hosts right side defence having no answers for the a first-half onslaught.
Halves partner Josh McCrone also played a telling hand in the victory that was all but sealed when Nene MacDonald crossed nine minutes after halftime.
It ended a mini-slump that stretched back to round seven when the Dragons last tasted victory against North Queensland in Wollongong.
In what was his last chance to press their claims for State of Origin selection, Paul Vaughan was again outstanding for the Dragons, running for 214 metres from 20 carries in just 47 minutes on the park.
Jack de Belin also mounted a strong closing argument while the Dragons back five combined for a whopping 810 metres – more than the entire Warriors pack combined – five tries and three try-assists.
It was the Dragons 17th win from 19 games against the Warriors and ensured they’ll head into a round 12 bye on a winning note.
Ben Matulino celebrated his 200th game with the opening try in the 12th minute after charging onto a pinpoint pass from Keiran Foran with Johnson adding the extras for an early 6-0 lead.
The Dragons hit back with a brilliant try of their own with MacDonald and Kalifa Faifai Loa both handling twice in the lead-up for the latter to finish next to the posts.
Lafai, who produced a deft off-load to lay-on his side’s first four-pointer, landed the conversion to level up at 6-all.
Lafai opened the Warriors up again in the ensuing set with only some desperate scramble from the hosts denying the Dragons a second try.
The resistance was momentary with Joel Thompson crossing after Bodene Thompson conceded a penalty just metres out from his own line. Lafai’s conversion attempt was waved away keeping the margin at four after 24 minutes.
Lafai slotted a penalty goal 12 minutes before the break for a six-point buffer and extended the margin four minutes later after Josh McCrone caught the Warriors napping on a short blindside.
The Warriors put a dent in the margin on halftime with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad picking up the scraps after Thompson fumbled a Johnson grubber close to his own line. Johnson couldn’t nail the extras, keeping the score at a flattering 18-10 at halftime.
MacDonald produced an acrobatic finish for his side’s fourth try nine minutes after the resumption. With his wing partner in the action, Faifai Loa scored his second from a Lafai off-load at the 60-minute mark to give his side a 16-point cushion heading into the final stages.
Nicoll-Klokstad notched his second try with five minutes remaining but it only troubled the scorers as the Warriors slumped to their fourth loss in five matches.