St George Illawarra worked its way to a solid 30-14 win over the Vodafone Warriors in tonight's 11th-round NRL clash at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton.
With three more tries they extended their eight-point halftime lead into a 16-point win to stop a run of three straight losses.
But for the Vodafone Warriors there was nothing but disappointment following last week's loss to Penrith, even more so on a night when Ben Matulino was making his 200th appearance.
Early on the teams went set-for-set in the first 12 minutes, the Vodafone Warriors sweating on an error and being gifted an unforced one inside the Dragons' half.
The invitation was taken up with relish, the ball going left with Kieran Foran opening a saloon passage for milestone man Matulino to stroll through. The conversion was straightforward for Shaun Johnson, the Vodafone Warriors 6-0 ahead after an error-free opening 14 minutes.
The good work was too quickly undone, though.
Former Kiwi winger Kalifa Faifai Loa made an incision near halfway, offloaded and stayed alive backing up centre Tim Lafai to score in the 20th minute.
The try wasn't converted but the Dragons were 10-6 ahead a few minutes later when they again struck through their left with second rower Joel Thompson unable to be checked. Lafai converted this time.
The Vodafone Warriors hadn't made an error in 11 sets in possession but the tone of the contest had tipped St George Illawarra's way with the two quick tries.
When the visitors were awarded their third straight penalty 25 metres out they opted for two, Lafai taking the lead out to 12-6.
The match was 30 minutes old before the Vodafone Warriors made their first error late in the tackle count of their 12th set. It was expensive.
From the resulting set they couldn't trap Kurt Mann on the last as he rolled away from the rushing defence, sent the ball left and Lafai had his side's third straight try going through the Vodafone Warriors' right edge. Lafai converted and the Dragons had an 18-6 advantage after 32 minutes.
Not until the 35th minute did the Vodafone Warriors win a penalty followed immediately by another. It was the break they so desperately needed.
They worked the ball around, came back right with Johnson pushing through a teasing grubber which Thompson couldn't cover. He lost control, Bodene Thompson popped the loose ball up to an unmarked Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and he scooted over in the right corner. Johnson's conversion attempt was well wide to leave his side 10-18 down at the break.
Both sides settled into the grind in the opening 10 minutes of the second half but when the Dragons busted up the middle they had plenty of numbers out to their right for wing Nene Macdonald to go over wide out in the 50th minute. No conversion from Lafai and the lead was out to 22-10.
With their high intensity off loading game in tune - they had the off load count 18-1 at this point (and 20-2 in the end) - the Dragons were asking all the questions in possession and soon more points came with their fifth try of the night to Faifai Loa.
When they earned another repeat set soon after, more points came as centre Taane Milne burrowed across wide out on the right to have his side 30-10 ahead.
There was little relief in sight for the Vodafone Warriors as rain fell but they found some through a nice Johnson kick in behind the defence, Nicoll-Klokstad racing onto it for his second try.
The result leaves the Vodafone Warriors with a 4-7 win-loss record as they eye a return to Mount Smart Stadium against Brisbane next Saturday night.
FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Vodafone Warriors 14 (Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2, Ben Matulino tries; Shaun Johnson conversion).
St George Illawarra Dragons 30 (Kalifa Faifai Loa 2, Joel Thompson, Tim Lafai, Nene Macdonald, Taane Milne tries; Tim Lafai 2 conversions, penalty).
Halftime: 18-10 Dragons.
Referees: Henry Perenara and Peter Gough.
Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Blake Ayshford, David Fusitu'a, Ken Maumalo; Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson; Ben Matulino, Issac Luke, Jacob Lillyman; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman; Bunty Afoa. Interchange: James Gavet, Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, Charlie Gubb.