St George Illawarra won the first match of the new World Club Series against Warrington Wolves 18-12.
Three tries from three different scorers saw the Aussie side draw first blood in a feisty and at times ugly match at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Ashton Sims knocked on straight from the Dragons kick-off giving an early handover of possession, which the visitors took full advantage of.
Tyson Frizell found the space and beat Gareth O’Brien to open the scoring inside two minutes.
Halifax-born halfback Gareth Widdop kicked the conversion to make it 6-0 to the Australian visitors.
Joel Monaghan looked set to score on tackle four but was well held up by Eto Nabuli, who recovered from poor positioning. The Wolves ran the final tackle but were again held-up and conceded possession.
Warrington forced St George to kick from deep in their own half from a set. Kevin Penny speedily returned with interest and the ball found its way to O’Brien who unleashed a moment of quality.
The stand-off received the ball and threw a dummy leaving Benji Marshall for dead then through the dummy again to beat full-back Josh Dugan before scoring. He kicked the conversion to make it a level game after just 12 minutes.
Just before the 20th minute Joel Thompson put the Dragons back in-front after his try was given after going to the video referee.
The centre stayed onside from Widdop’s kick into Warrington’s in-goal area to ground the ball just before it went out of play. Widdop duly converted the try to give them a six-point lead.
Then a moment of controversy on the half hour mark. Penny was on the charge when Nabuli put in a high challenge. It caused tempers to flare despite it being the first penalty of the game.
Referee Ben Thaler spoke to Nabuli and only gave the penalty. Super League rules are used for this competition and after what players have been sent-off and sin-binned for in recent weeks it looked like a let off for the visitors.
However from the penalty Warrington took full advantage as Gary Wheeler crossed for their second try.
Wheeler collected a clever pass inside and used the momentum from the tackle to spin and it carried him over the line to reduce the arrears to just two points as O’Brien missed the conversion.
Just a minute before the break a high kick caused confusion in the St George defence leading to a penalty to the Wolves for holding. The hosts couldn’t capitalise meaning the Dragons had a two-point lead going into the second half.
The second half started slowly and there was little incident until the 57th minute.
There was another moment of controversy when Marshall took O’Brien out with a high shot. But yet again Ben Thaler awarded just a Warrington penalty.
From the penalty the Wolves went for goal and O’Brien dusted himself down to level the game at 12-12.
Five minutes later the capacity crowd saw the match winning moment. A reverse kick from Marshall, who arguably should have been in the sin-bin, found Dugan to score for the Dragons.
Widdop kept his 100% (three from three) kicking accuracy to re-establish St George Illawarra’s six-point lead.
With five minutes to go Monaghan had an excellent opportunity to go over in the corner, however he fumbled meaning he hasn’t scored in three games for the first time as a Warrington player.
From their St George Illawarra Dragons remained strong defensively to take the first of the three World Club Series matches in favour of Australia.
Tomorrow sees Wigan Warriors host Brisbane Broncos before Sunday’s showpiece between Super League champions St Helens and NRL champions South Sydney Rabbitohs.