St George Illawarra have stumbled into the NRL finals series, surviving an incredible comeback from the Wests Tigers to prevail 32-30 in golden point at ANZ Stadium.
Fullback Josh Dugan slotted a penalty goal from 18 metres out and right in front after the siren for the first half of extra time on Saturday night after referee Matt Cecchin pinged the Tigers’ markers for not being square.
The Dragons led 30-8 with 20 minutes remaining before the Tigers scored four tries in quick succession, including a runaway intercept to winger David Nofoaluma with a minute remaining.
In a frantic golden-point shootout, Benji Marshall and Tigers winger Pat Richards both missed shots at field goal.
In the end, Marshall was the star for the Dragons, helping his side to a first finals appearance since 2011 against his former team.
In what’s likely to be his good friend and Tigers skipper Robbie Farah’s last game for the club, halfback Marshall produced an outstanding display of tactical kicking in the 12-try thriller.
The victory locked in eighth spot for the Dragons to set up an elimination final next week with the fifth-placed side – Cronulla or Melbourne.
Marshall came up with a lovely play in the 47th minute, producing a pin-point grubber kick for winger Jason Nightingale to dive on out wide.
Missing his halves partner Gareth Widdop to injury (quadriceps), Marshall’s passing game was also superb.
Marshall, who won a premiership with Farah and the Tigers in 2005, put centre Euan Aitken over for his second try of the night in the 60th minute with a nice short ball and did the same to send back-rower Tyson Frizell in for the final try of the first half.
The Dragons went to the break leading 20-8 after Luke Brooks sent a scare through the Dragons with an intercept try in the second minute.
The home side hit back with quick tries to Josh Dugan, Eto Nabuli and Aitken.
A bright note for the Tigers was departing winger Richards scoring two tries, taking his tally to 17 for the season in his final game for the club before continuing his career overseas along with fellow Tigers stalwart Keith Galloway.