Dragons step up to crush Manly

Dragons front-rower Michael Weyman celebrates after scoring in Monday night’s 32-10 thrashing of Manly at WIN Jubilee Oval at Kogarah. Picture: DAVE TEASEIf this was a grand final dress rehearsal, and many believe it still could have been, then the officials have failed it dismally.Not one, but two officiating shockers marred St George Illawarra’s easy victory over Manly on Monday night.The only positive was that both sides benefited from a decision each; Dragons centre Mark Gasnier was awarded a highly controversial first-half try while Manly were later given some fortune when Brent Kite’s clearly forward pass to Kieran Foran was ruled to have travelled backwards. Full coverage of the Dragons Just three rounds out from the finals, the form of the officials, and not just a number of underperforming sides, will be of major concern.The decision to award Gasnier a try on the half hour was made by video referee Bill Harrigan, a perennial target of abuse from the Dragons territory due to his decision which went against the Dragons in the 1999 grand final. From foe to friend; his ruling that Gasnier had successfully grounded the ball to hand the Dragons a 10-0 lead simply looked wrong.Not only did Gasnier appear to lose the ball as he attempted a lunge at the line, but the ball also seemed to fall short. So it could have been disallowed on two counts, yet Harrigan gave the Dragons the benefit of the doubt.Harrigan conceded the ball had initially come down short of the line but said it was then rolled onto it.”It was benefit of the doubt,” Harrigan said. “There was no separation. The ball was put down before the line and then rolled onto it.”But then after 49 minutes, the Sea Eagles were awarded their own benefit; Kite popped a short ball to Foran which was, in the officials’ defence, somewhat difficult to see – but replays showed it travelled clearly forward.This has been a home for some stinkers. The Bulldogs were left baffled last year when video referee Steve Clark denied centre Jamal Idris the match-winning try against the Dragons due to obstruction. The call last night might not have been as critical, but it was arguably as bad.It came after Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward had given his side a 13th minute lead when, from 44m, he sped through Foran and Anthony Watmough and rounded Michael Robertson to score a wonderful try.While this was another typical Dragons display, methodical muscle, there were other magical moments to rival Soward’s; winger Jason Nightingale’s effort to reach the field of play after seeming to be caught in his in-goal was superb.It’s certainly a shame that such efforts will be overshadowed by the push of a button or the shrill of a whistle. The Sea Eagles did score next, with winger Tony Williams picking a Michael Robertson ball off his toenails in the final minute of the first half, but the damage had been done.By the time hooker Luke Priddis had dummied and offloaded to prop Michael Weyman, handing the NSW player his first try of the year, the Dragons were in control. The missed forward pass call gave Manly a glimmer of hope, but when Nathan Fien, called into halfback to replace ill captain Ben Hornby, scored after 55 minutes, and Beau Scott ran 80m seven minutes later following a ricochet, they had successfully strangled the Sea Eagles – and their grip on the minor premiership had firmed, too.The Sea Eagles were left precariously in seventh spot, and their co-captain Jason King was placed on report for a high tackle on Jarrod Saffy. ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 32 (N Fien, M Gasnier, B Morris, B Scott, J Soward, M Weyman tries; J Soward 4 goals) bt MANLY 10 (K Foran, T Williams tries; J Lyon goal) at WIN Jubilee Oval. Referees: Matt Cecchin, Shayne Hayne. Crowd: 14,740.NSW FOOTYTAB: Pick-the-score: Dragons 32 Sea Eagles 10 (5.5pts). Div: $242.80. Pick-the-winners: Eels, Sharks, Titans, Raiders, Warriors, Rabbitohs, Tigers, Dragons. Div: $164.30. Pick-the-margins: Eels (13+), Sharks (1-12), Titans (13+), Raiders (13+), Warriors (1-12), Storm (1-12), Tigers (13+), Dragons (13+). Div: $33,150.50.
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