Tuesday 1 March 2011

NRL 2011 - St.George-Illawarra 21 def. Wigan 15 in World Club Challenge - Match Report

By Warrick D Nicolson, March 1, 2011.

TRIES: Brett Morris 2 (10m & 29m), Matt Cooper (17m), Cameron King (55m).
GOALS: Jamie Soward 2/4 Conversions; Soward 1 Field Goal.
TRIES: George Carmont 2 (2m & 23m).
GOALS: Paul Deacon 2/2 Conversions, 1/1 Penalties; Sam Tomkins 1 Field Goal.
At DW Stadium, Wigan, England. 27/02/2011.
Dragons TV Highlights here.
"Let's go around the grounds... Wigan EIGHT lead St.George-Illawarra NIL at the DW Stadium after four minutes of play in the World Club Challenge."

Sorry what was that?

You could be forgiven for looking at the scoreboard at Wigan's DW Stadium after just 4 minutes and wondering if you had stumbled into a distortion of time and space... because in present day Rugby League - St.George-Illawarra do not trail 8-0 after 4 minutes.

Yet here they were, 8-0 down to the UK Super League champion Wigan Warriors and the game had barely begun.

It began badly with a Beau Scott error on just the 2nd tackle of the match, got worse when George Carmont leapt above Jamie Soward for the first try and the shocking start was complete when Paul Deacon landed a penalty goal from a Nathan Fien high tackle. In all the Dragons had made 3 errors in the opening 5 minutes of the game!

Fast forward 75 minutes and reality was back in play. The Dragons had once again backed their defensive ability and become the third Australian club side to take out the World Club Challenge in as many seasons.
Carmont's early try from a Deacon cross kick was answered by a typically classy Brett Morris finish. With some possession on the Wigan line, Ben Hornby found Ben Creagh charging near the line and the second rower popped a loose but effective off-load to Matt Cooper who sent Morris over in the left corner with a quick catch and pass. Soward missed the conversion but St.George-Illawarra had struck back in the space of a few minutes and Wigan led 8-4 after 11 minutes.

St.George-Illawarra were in again in the 17th minute when Matt Cooper ran a great line onto a Hornby short ball from 5m out and Soward converted to give the Dragons a 10-8 lead. Nathan Fien made a crisp  pass from dummy half to Hornby chose to ignore Darius Boyd wrapping behind Cooper and the Wigan defence failed to hold the 31 year old centre who barged through a couple of defenders to score. It was the second strike by the vaunted Dragons' left edge and they seemed keen to test out Wigan centre Martin Gleeson's dodgy hamstring at every opportunity.

Deacon missed a penalty goal to draw level in the 22nd minute but from the ensuring 20m drop out, Wigan second rower Harrison Hansen floated a pass wide of the surging defensive line and found Carmont who raced around Soward and left him in his wake on a 60m run to the line. Deacon made no mistake from in front and Wigan were back in front 14-10 after 23 minutes.

But Wigan's joy was short lived as Morris grabbed his second of the game in the 29th minute. Yet again the Dragons went down their potent left side with the ball sweeping through the hands of Fien, Hornby and Boyd en route to Morris who showed why his finishing skills are the best in the game. Boyd's was the money ball putting Morris in the clear and the international winger went through the four cover defenders to score. Soward missed another conversion and the game was level at 14-14.

But it would be Wigan who would take the lead on the stroke of halftime with a calmly taken Field Goal by Sam Tomkins putting the Warriors up 15-14.

HALFTIME: WIGAN WARRIORS 15 (G Carmont 2 Tries; P Deacon 3/4 Goals; S Tomkins Field Goal) lead ST.GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 14 (B Morris 2, M Cooper Tries; J Soward 1/3 Goals).

Both team's traded field position in the opening stages of the 2nd Half but the game seemed to turn in the Dragons' favour when Wigan winger Darrell Goulding dropped a Boyd cut out pass that was set to send Morris over for a hat-trick in the 54th minute. Had Goulding held the ball he would have raced 90m to score and Wigan's lead could have been 7 points with 26 minutes left.
But Lady Luck can be a cruel mistress as just a minute later, rookie hooker Cameron King barged over from dummy half to put the Dragons back in front 20-15 with Soward's easy conversion. And as if to make another point about it - Lady Luck didn't smile on King for long, as he was forced from the field with a pectoral muscle tear almost straight away.

Wigan tried to hit back in an unconventional way with fullback Sam Tomkins appearing to lash out with his head on Ben Hornby while in possession of the ball. Given his kneeing incident on Morris earlier in the game, Tomkins was clearly not intending to make new friends.

St.George-Illawarra nearly put the game away in the 70th minute after repelling a Wigan surge in the previous ten minutes, when Boyd and Cooper put Morris into space again. But Wigan replacement Joel Tomkins pulled off a superb ankle tap on Morris to stop a certain try.

However Jamie Soward did a quick calculation on the scoreboard on the next play and popped over a 20m Field Goal which pushed the margin to 6 points and St.George-Illawarra were up 21-15.

In the final ten minutes Wigan threw everything they had at the Dragons but it was painfully obvious they lacked the playmaking skill of the injured Brett Finch. When standout Wigan prop Andy Coley was brought down 2m out, St.George-Illawarra gladly gave away a penalty to slow the game down and then in the 78th minute Amos Roberts threw a no look cut out pass into the stands and that would prove to be Wigan's last throw of the dice.

The Dragons would hold on thanks to their superb defensive effort in the second half and were crowned World Club Champions for the first time.
FULLTIME: ST.GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 21 (B Morris 2, M Cooper, C King Tries; J Soward 2/4 Goals, 1 Field Goal) defeated WIGAN WARRIORS 15 (G Carmont 2 Tries; P Deacon 3/4 Goals; S Tomkins 1 Field Goal).
Dragons TV Highlights here.

4 Votes: Darius Boyd, Dragons.
2 Votes: Brett Morris, Dragons.
1 Vote: Andy Coley, Warriors.

DRAGONS: Darius Boyd, Brett Morris, Dan Hunt, Ben Creagh, Matt Cooper, Ben Hornby, Nathan Fien, Jon Green.
WARRIORS: Andy Coley, George Carmont, Sam Tomkins, Joel Tompkins, Lee Mossop, Paul Deacon, Harrison Hansen.

As a special treat - especially for Wigan fans - here are the highlights of a past World Club Challenge (pitting the 1993 UK champion Wigan against the 1993 NSWRL champion Brisbane Broncos) played in June, 1994.
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