DRAGONS 20 WARRIORS 10
St George Illawarra consigned the siren-gate scandal to the memory bank, halting a three-game slide with a dour victory over the New Zealand Warriors at WIN Jubilee Oval on Saturday night.
Only five days after being caught up in one of the most controversial finishes seen to an NRL match, the Dragons extended their 10-game and seven-year hoodoo over the Warriors with a 20-10 win.
It catapulted Steve Price's side back into the top eight as the listless Warriors slumped to their third straight defeat - and second since Matt Elliott's axing.
But while the two points will be a welcome relief for the Dragons, for the third week in a row they were caught up in another refereeing controversy. Rather than a caning in the penalty count or after-the-siren heroics, this one involved a dubious pass which vaulted the Warriors back into the contest.
Manu Vatuvei streaked from half-way to barrel over Josh Dugan and score in the left corner with 17 minutes remaining, but it was only after being released by a Dane Nielsen pass which appeared forward.
It hauled the Warriors to within four points and set up a tense finish after an electric Sam Tomkins try sprung the visitors to life early in the second half.
But a patchy Warriors' resistance was only ever going to last so long as Michael Witt and Mitch Rein produced back-to-back grubbers for Dugan to dive over for the match sealer.
The first half resembled more round ball code than oval ball, punctuated by a flare going off on the hill, a freakish Gareth Widdop volley and a 2-0 scoreline for much of the half which would have been more at home in the world game.
It took a Widdop penalty goal to open the scoring and punctuate an uninspiring opening quarter, but the Dragons seized control late in the first stanza.
And it was no thanks to winger Jason Nightingale, who added another party trick to the seemingly weekly sideshow from St George Illawarra's wingers.
Moments after collecting a bizarre Widdop volley from a bomb and almost scoring, Nightingale got the green light when acrobatically landing the first try. He collected a Witt cutout pass which skipped along the turf and prematurely launched himself off the ground to evade Dane Nielsen's bump.
The Kiwi international almost face planted while scoring, but it will matter little to the Kogarah faithful who were in awe of Nightingale's jaw-dropping effort.
If Nightingale's try was spectacular, Mike Cooper's on the stroke of half-time was anything but. The Pommy enforcer crashed over off a short Rein pass close to the line seconds before the break, padding the Dragons' half-time lead to 12 which proved decisive in the end.
St George Illawarra will take on the Roosters in the annual Anzac Day blockbuster on Friday.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 20 (Jason Nightingale, Mike Cooper, Josh Dugan tries; Gareth Widdop 4 goals) defeated NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS 10 (Sam Tomkins, Manu Vatuvei try; Shaun Johnson goal) at WIN Jubilee Oval. Referee: Jared Maxwell, Chris James. Crowd: 10,559.
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