ROOSTERS 34 DRAGONS 14
Fumbling and stumbling their way through the early part of their title defence, the world champion Roosters rose to the Anzac Day occasion. And how the Dragons wish they hadn't.
Once having a mortgage on the most celebrated day of the regular season calendar, Steve Price's St George Illawarra felt the wrath of the Tricolours on Anzac Day for the second straight year.
The bleeding might not have been quite as pronounced as last year's 24-point hiding, but Dragons fans should be under no illusions how much further they have to go to be a serious top eight contender.
Idling for most of the first two months of the season, the Roosters vaulted back into the top eight after easing past their Anzac Day foes 34-14 on Friday.
They toyed with the Dragons at times, who you would have excused for feeling giddy in the opposition half given their increasingly rare incursions into Roosters territory. They can really only blame themselves given the litany of ball they turned over in their own half.
The contest, belying the fact the Dragons trailed by only 10 with just as many minutes left, was only going to have one winner. And when NSW Origin back-rower Boyd Cordner raced over from a swift James Maloney pass, it was definitely done.
Almost to a man the St George Illawarra squad, led by skipper Ben Creagh, personally thanked Dragons war veteran Bill Collier after the pre-game pomp. Collier wouldn't have wanted to see his beloved Red V manning their own line under a ferocious assault from the Roosters throughout.
How the Roosters had an inferior win-loss record before Anzac Day is perhaps a great mystery given Friday's evidence.
As well as the state of Michael Jennings' right ankle and Maloney's left shoulder, ailments which triggered the pair to head down the tunnel with just a handful of minutes left as their tenuous grips on NSW jumpers loosened.
The Roosters squeezed the life out of St George Illawarra in the first 40 minutes and if not for an Anthony Minichiello howler on the stroke of half-time their lead would have been greater than 18-8.
Minichiello, perhaps deriving inspiration from fellow Italian Alessandro Del Piero on Allianz Stadium, tried to volley an inconspicuous Josh Dugan grubber into Row Z only seconds before the break. His footwork belied his heritage as an airswing allowed Nathan Green to touch down.
Only moments earlier the Roosters captain had darted over unopposed on the back of a Mitchell Pearce bullet while moonlighting on the wing to stretch the premiers' lead to 14.
Dragons captain Ben Creagh was also in the thick of the action in a frenetic first half. He crashed over for St George Illawarra's first try from dummy-half after assisting Gerard Beale to come up inches short of the stripe.
Perhaps the biggest talking point from the opening salvo was the fact the Dragons got caught not playing to the whistle for the second time in three weeks. This time, though, they could have no complaints.
Time stood still when Daniel Tupou appeared to step over the sideline on a whirlwind Roosters play which had Dragons defenders watching like statues. But Tupou flung the ball back infield to send Michael Jennings careering downfield before the winger re-entered the field of play to score.
Replays suggested Tupou was airborne and the try stood. It was an all too familiar feeling for those wearing the Red V.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 34 (Aiden Guerra, Daniel Tupou, Anthony Minichiello, Jake Friend, Boyd Cordner, Shaun Kenny-Dowall tries; James Maloney 5 goals) defeated ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 14 (Ben Creagh, Nathan Green, Gerard Beale tries; Gareth Widdop goal) at Allianz Stadium. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Gavin Morris. Crowd: 38,784.
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