Friday, May 29, 2009

It's a Friday night, Wins Stadium in Woollengong, St George- they win 38 to 10, play Penrith. Despite it being a cold, wet, early winters night, with 10623 fans along too watch, St George scored seven tries to two, to go to the top of the NRL points ladder.

That is, for at least two days, depending on whether the Bulldogs win on Sunday against Newcastle.

With a strong southerly behind their backs in the first half, coach Wayne Bennett would have been justifiably concerned at the half-time break, being ahead by only six points, 12-6.

And this was on the back of a fourteen percent advantage in the possession stakes.

It was Penrith who looked the stronger of the two during the first ten minutes. They regularly gained more ground with their sets of six, even though running into the wind.

Their defence was solid and the attack looked sharp.

However, despite this, between the 10th and 15th minutes, St George scored two tries in quick succession. Both came from bombs put up by Jamie Soward. The first, Beau Scott recovered and touched down, just inside the in-goal sideline.

Ben Hornby gathered the next bomb in, two metres from Penriths goal line and ran over untouched to score just past the horizontal bar. Soward missed the first conversion, but made no mistake with the second, giving St George a 10- nil lead after fifteen minutes.

Penrith hit back eleven minutes on, after Wade Graham also scored from a bomb in the corner. Jarrod Sammit converted to bring Penrith within four points of St George.

But that was as close as they could manage for the match.

St George extended it to six, one minute out from half-time, when awarded a penalty for a blatant- think sinbinning offence that never happened - play the ball offence, in front of Penriths goalposts. Soward landed the goal, to take the score out to 12-6.

There was a feeling that Penrith would come home the stronger, what with the strong southerly behind them and the fact that, despite been behind on the scoreboard, they had looked sharper than their opposition on attack.

That was then, though. This is the now.

St George came out firing at the beginning of the second half. It took them only ninety seconds before they troubled the scoreboard. Chase Stanley got on the outside of his opposite number and then off-loaded in the tackle to Wendel Sailor, who steamrolled his way over two unfortunate Penrith defenders to dot down in the corner, extending the lead to twelve.

Penrith got their second and last try, to captain Frank Pritchard, in the 52nd minute. Running three wide of the ruck, Pritchard showed what potential he has, to be one of the most uncontrollably destructive attacking forces known to the current generation of rugby league fans, by rampaging his way along a thirty metre dash, to touchdown ten in from the sideline.

There was to be no more satisfaction for Penrith, though.

From here on in, Sailor and his mates then decided to go on a scoring rampage over the next twenty-eight minutes, running in four unanswered tries, one of which was Sailors second of the night, and the best of the match.

It was at the 62nd minute, Jason Nightingale had regathered a poor kick from Penrith's Lachan Coote, busted through the Penrith fortification, off-loaded to Brett Morris, who said a hearty adieu to his opposite number and proceeded with indecent haste to speed his way along the magnificently conditioned grasslands of Wins Stadium. Having been brought down thirty out from Penriths line, St George spread the ball wide to Sailor, who having emancipated himself from the ravages of the Penrith defence, dives over in the corner to score.

With the conversion, this took the score to 24-10, and Penrith never recovered.

St George added three more tries to their tally, one in the dying seconds of the match, to give Penrith a 26-4 second half drubbing.

St George in the second half, for what looked to be the first time this season, straightened their attack up, which meant running onto the ball at the advantage line. Which gave them a much more venomous look too their football team. Because of this, it was perhaps their best half of football this season.

They look to be improving with each week.

Which means, watch out, come finals time.

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