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Dragons outlast Warriors in close affair

Goalkicking proved the difference as the Dragons came from behind to down the Warriors 24-18 in the wet at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday.

Both teams scored four tries but St George Illawarra centre Zac Lomax, who grabbed a double, landed four goals compared to a solitary conversion by Warriors fullback Reece Walsh.  

Warriors centre Viliami Vailea also scored two tries as the visitors recovered from a poor start to take a 18-12 lead early in the second half but the Dragons finished too strong.

The star of the match was St George Illawarra fullback Cody Ramsey, who finished with a try and laid on another for Lomax in his first performance of the season in the No.1 jersey to stake a long term claim for the position.

For the Warriors, the loss was compounded by a suspected lisfranc injury that prevented star prop Addin Fonua-Blake finishing the match and may sideline him for a significant period.

The Warriors released prop Matt Lodge on Friday and are now in the market for a replacement. 

Match snapshot

  • The Dragons enjoyed the best possible start when centre Zac Lomax dived on a loose ball in the Warriors in-goal to score in the opening minute after former team-mate Euan Aitken slipped trying to clean up a Talatau Amone grubber.
  • However, the Warriors quickly hit back when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak batted back a perfectly placed kick from halfback Shaun Johnson for centre Viliami Vailea to score in the 10th minute.

Vailea in the right place at the right time

  • Johnson then put the Warriors ahead 10-6 after 24 minutes with an individual try after dummying past rival halfback Ben Hunt and spinning out of an attempted tackle to score.
  • Hunt made amends to help the Dragons regain the lead when he combined with Amone to put fullback Cody Ramsey over for a 24th minute try.

Ramsey swizzles and swerves his way over

  • Vailea's second try three minutes later was almost identical to his first, with the Fijian swooping on a loose ball after Watene-Zelezniak and wing opposite Mat Feagai were unable to catch a Shaun Johnson kick in an aerial contest.
  • Watene-Zelezniak extended the Warriors lead to 18-12 just four minutes after the second half re-start when he finished a backline shift started by Tohu Harris and featuring Johnson, Reece Walsh and Vailea.

Acrobatic Watene-Zelezniak spurs on the Warriors

  • The Dragons regained momentum just three minutes later when interchange prop Michael Molo crashed over from close range to score in his NRL debut and the home team lifted.
  • Lomax's second try came off the back of a long range break by Ramsey, who found Amone in support but the five-eighth was tackled by Aitken. Ramsey then darted out of dummy half on the next tackle to put Lomax over in the 51st minute.
  • A 70th minute Lomax penalty goal sealed the win after Warriors fullback Reece Wash interfered in the play-the-ball following a long range Amone break. 

Lomax at the double after Ramsey brilliance

Play of the game 

A rugby union-style rolling maul in the Dragons in-goal led to the match winning penalty goal by Zac Lomax. With the star centre seemingly having nowhere to go after receiving a pass from winger Mat Feagai, team-mates poured in behind Lomax to help push him into field of play. Amone then made a long range break and was pulled down by Reece Walsh, who interfered in the play-the-ball and conceded a penalty that enabled Lomax to extend the Dragons lead to 24-18. 

Lomax's great escape makes for incredible scenes

What they said

"The thing I was most impressed with was the second half when the game was going against us and we had to wrestle it back, which we did. We showed some real fight and courage. I've never seen anything like that [rolling maul]. I don't think you are allowed to do that ... but I am glad he let it go because we got out of our own in-goal. It was a massive play. For us it looked like initially we were going to get caught in goal so it was just a sign of what they wanted to do in the second half. They wanted to win that game and they lifted themselves with little efforts like that, defensively when we needed them," Dragons coach Anthony Griffin.

Dragons: Round 11

"We had a lot of people do good things today. It was probably the best our ruck defence has been all year I would say. People worked hard and we had some blokes who played terrific footy but we also had two or three players who had some bad moments. We gifted them tries far too easy and in the NRL it makes a difference. That was the most disappointing thing. Four tries should be enough to win most games. Tohu is our best player and he has come back in his second game after nine months and that is why we improved. He helps our attack and our defence a lot," Warriors coach Nathan Brown.

Warriors: Round 11

What's next

The Dragons travel to Belmore Oval to take on the Bulldogs next Sunday, while the Warriors host the Knights at Moreton Daily Stadium on Saturday night.

Dragons coach Anthony Griffin may have the services of hooker Andrew McCullough at his disposal next weekend after he missed the past two weeks with a thumb injury.

However, Josh McGuire (groin) and Jaydn Su'a (ankle) won't play before the round 14 clash with the Cowboys.

Warriors coach Nathan Brown is waiting on the scans for a foot injury sustained by Addin Fonua-Blake amid fears that the star prop faces a lengthy stint on the sidelines.

Playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita is expected to return from a groin injury against the Knights but backrower Bailey Sironen groin), hooker Wayde Egan (calf) and forward Josh Curran (knee) are several more weeks away.

Centre Jesse Arthars was 18th man against the Dragons after overcoming a shoulder injury. 

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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