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DCE a winner in 300th as Sea Eagles break 20-year hoodoo

Author: 

Alicia Newton, NRL Reporter

The Sea Eagles ran in 22 straight points during the match to ensure Cherry-Evans' milestone game was a night to remember after St George Illawarra took an 8-0 lead early.

Despite a spirited second half effort from the Red V to get within a try late, the Sea Eagles did enough to hold on for their first victory in Wollongong since 2003 after previously losing 10 of 11 matches at WIN Stadium.

Manly's right edge of Tolutau Koula, Haumole Olakau'atu and Jason Saab caused havoc for the home side with the trio crossing for tries each in the win while Reuben Garrick was strong at the back in a crucial result for the Sea Eagles.

The Dragons shot out of the blocks early when Talatau Amone sent Francis Molo over the line from short range before Zac Lomax slotted a penalty goal after Jake Trbojevic was penalised for being offside.

A powerful run by Matt Lodge enabled the visitors some momentum in a set and Saab made light work of the sideline to use every piece of grass before finding Koula in support to get the Sea Eagles on the board. 

Dragons hooker Jacob Liddle had a moment to forget after he was rag dolled to the ground by Olakau'atu before playing the ball in the opposite direction to hand possession back to the visitors.

The Sea Eagles took advantage of the brain fade with Olakau'atu making light work of the Dragons' left-edge defence to get past three defenders and go over with ease.

Manly extended their lead two minutes after half-time with Kelma Tuilagi and Koula combining inside their own half to help send Garrick over in a long-range effort.

Garrick went close to grabbing a second but was denied by a last-gasp effort from the Dragons before Lachlan Croker was ruled to have knocked the ball on in a lead-up. 

A linebreak by Jack de Belin shortly after the turnover allowed the Dragons to get into attacking territory but the home side were denied a four-pointer of their own with Dan Russell ruled held up over the line on review by the NRL Bunker.

The Sea Eagles were in again in the 52nd minute with Saab's pace on the right edge too fast for Mat Feagai and Tyrell Sloan - the Manly winger beating both to sprint 40 metres to the line. 

St George Illawarra's chances of a comeback appeared to have been dented when de Belin was sent to the sin-bin on review after an alleged hip-drop tackle on Christian Tuipulotu, who came from the field with a suspected MCL injury.

However, the Dragons crossed while a man down to set up a big finish with 10 minutes remaining when Sloan picked up a loose Ben Hunt pass to cross over the line. 

An offside call on Zane Musgrove while in possession of the ball killed off any hope of a potential victory for the Red V with the Sea Eagles keeping their chances of finishing in the top eight well and truly alive.

Match snapshot

  • The Dragons had a whopping 59 percent of possession and ran for 400 metres more than the Sea Eagles despite the result.
  • Daly Cherry-Evans notched his 300th NRL appearance, becoming the 49th player to do so and just the 19th to achieve it at one club.
  • Cherry-Evans has now won his 50th, 100th, 150th, 200th, 250th and 300th NRL matches in a remarkable record for the Sea Eagles captain.
  • Sea Eagles hooker Lachlan Croker also brought up his 100th NRL game on the same night.
  • Dragons centre Zac Lomax's good form has continued since returning to the right edge with 209 metres from 20 carries alongside Mikaele Ravalawa, who also ran for over 200 metres.
  • Dragons forward Jack de Belin was placed on report and sin-binned for an alleged hip-drop tackle on Christian Tuipulotu, who failed to finish the match due to a suspected MCL injury. 
  • The Sea Eagles' win was their first in Wollongong since 2003 after previously losing 10 of 11 matches against the Dragons at WIN Stadium.

Play of the game
Jason Saab came back to haunt his former club with a try, assist, three linebreaks and 197 metres, and none more so than the eventual match-winner in the 51st minute.

What they said
"I thought we played a really good game of footy, we built our game over the complete 80 minutes for the first time in a long time. It was the best we have gone after a full game of footy and the full process of it, and not just playing a good 40 or 50 [minutes] and then having a bad period and getting beaten late. They are sombre, they feel like they have let each other down or the club down - and they haven't. They are trying as hard as I have ever seen them try and in terms of the process, it was the best we have played for a long time. We are improving heaps and the effort is unreal and you can see that. They could easily be tapping out right now, there's so many excuses around that they could grab and they are not. That's what I love about them," - Dragons interim coach Ryan Carr.  

"That is two games in a row that we have won now, which is really pleasing. We have got to give credit to the Dragons, they came back at the end there and it became a tight finish. It wasn't perfect but we stuck at it. It is a really tough week coming up, we have got a really short turn around. It is our third game in 11 days next Thursday at the SCG but we have got to keep turning up. This week will be about recovery, and giving a good account of ourselves on Thursday against the Roosters," - Sea Eagles coach Anthony Seibold. 

What's next
The Sea Eagles are back in action in five days time when they travel to the Sydney Cricket Ground for a vital clash against the Roosters. Given where both sides are placed on the ladder it could be season-defining in terms of the finals. St George Illawarra turn their attention to a clash against the Eels at CommBank Stadium.

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