Dragons outgun Finchless Eels - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Dragons outgun Finchless Eels

By David Beniuk 10/04/2009 11:45:39 PM Comments (0)

Parramatta responded to Brett Finch's exit with plenty of aggro, but they couldn't cover for his class as St George Illawarra fought out a 22-8 victory in the NRL clash at Parramatta Stadium on Friday night.

The Dragons absorbed a bruising assault from the fired-up Eels, showing greater composure and superior ball control to notch a up a three-tries-to-one win in front of 19,017 fans.

The win was only the second in eight trips to Parramatta from the joint venture.

Captain Ben Hornby scored an amazing four-pointer, which included a bone-rattling collision with a goalpost, while Neville Costigan and Wendell Sailor bagged tries and Jamie Soward booted five goals from five attempts.

Luke Burt scored a late consolation try for the Eels and booted two goals.

Up 14-2 at halftime, the Dragons had scored only two points in the second through a Soward penalty goal in the 54th minute until Sailor pounced in the final minute.

Finch's absence was everywhere to be seen for the Eels, from their turnaround in attitude from last week's insipid loss to the Sydney Roosters, to the poor execution of their attacking plays.

As expected, Eels coach Daniel Anderson reshuffled his side in the wake of his No.7 walking out.

Jeff Robson replaced Finch at halfback, Jarryd Hayne moved from five-eighth to the centres and Feleti Mateo from lock back to pivot, where he excelled last year.

Regular centre Ben Smith packed down in the second row.

The forwards ripped into each other but tensions boiled over out wide when Eels winger Eric Grothe and Dragons centre Neville Costigan stood toe-to-toe in the 14th minute and traded punches.

It took 21 minutes for any points to be scored, Soward booting a penalty goal before Burt replied in the 29th minute.

Not content with the bruising early exchanges, Hornby grabbed a Soward chip kick one-handed in the 33rd minute, rebounded off the right upright and touched down as the Dragons went out to an 8-2 lead.

Hornby's four-pointer perfectly illustrated the Dragons' new-found ability to soak up pressure under Wayne Bennett's regime and they hurt the Eels again two minutes before the break when, after two kicks and several Parramatta fumbles, Costigan crashed over.

St George Illawarra prop Michael Weyman was placed on report for a 13th-minute high shot on Fuifui Moimoi, while lock Jeremy Smith was sin-binned in 67th for a hold-down as the Eels briefly threatened to come back.

Anderson carried the demeanour of a winning, or at least relieved, coach as he praised his side's commitment.

"We had a real dig for the whole 80 minutes and I just thought the game was very precariously balanced and we just didn't take opportunities," he said.

"The difference was that the Dragons took their opportunities.

"I'm very, very happy with the attitude and commitment, I'd like us to get more reward so that the boys get more confidence from it.

"It's a huge improvement in our performance."

Hornby downplayed his heroic run-in with the goalpost.

"It was just one of those things, the kick was up there, I had the choice to let it hit the post or try and catch it so I tried to catch it and it came off for me," he said.

Bennett praised his side for holding on during Smith's sin-binning, but didn't pretend to comprehend the ruling.

"I have no understanding of that," he said.

Hornby did, but only deepened the mystery for everyone else.

"The ref explained it to me so there wasn't much we could do after that ... I don't really want to talk about it to be honest," he said.

Dragons utility Neville Costigan will have x-rays on a suspected broken hand.

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