The resurgence of St George Illawarra under the coaching of Paul McGregor has continued with the Dragons seeing off table-topping Brisbane 12-10 at Kogarah Oval on Friday night.
Touted as wooden spoon contenders after opening the season with back-to-back defeats, McGregor’s side, possessing the best defence in the NRL, held off a furious late flurry of attacking raids from the visitors.
The Broncos were reduced to 15 men after skipper Justin Hodges was forced out with a recurrence of his hamstring injury before halftime.
Alex Glenn then sustained a serious facial injury midway through the second period but despite trailing 6-4 at the break, the Broncos took the lead through Sam Thaiday’s converted try in the 55th minute.
But the Dragons clinched the win when English front-rower Mike Cooper powered over and his fellow countryman Gareth Widdop added the decisive extra two points.
Daniel Vidot opened the scoring in the 17th minute following a strong spell from Brisbane, but they let the Dragons immediately back into the game when a huge hit from Will Matthews dislodged the ball from Thaiday.
Widdop looked set to score only to be impeded by Hodges as he chased his grubber kick, but winger Eto Nabuli was alert enough to take advantage of Vidot’s dithering to get his hand to the ball.
The Broncos, inspired by the outstanding Andrew McCullough, had the chance to win the game when Leeson Ah Mau turned the ball over deep in his own half.
However, when the pressure was on to win the game, Ben Hunt couldn’t repeat his exploits against the Sydney Roosters last week and failed to get the ball down in the left corner with the line at his mercy.