Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Fire in the belly for Dragon Dugan

Josh Dugan shows his delight after scoring his first try for the Dragons who beat hapless Parramatta last night. Photo / Getty Images
Josh Dugan shows his delight after scoring his first try for the Dragons who beat hapless Parramatta last night. Photo / Getty Images

Dragons 32
Eels 12

The Dragons got their season back on track on a fairytale night for NRL bad boy Josh Dugan.

The former Raiders fullback scored two tries to help his side to a comprehensive victory over the struggling Eels.

An inexperienced Parramatta side were overwhelmed in the second part of the first half, as the home side crossed three times in 16 minutes.

The joint venture club made an impressive start at their Woollongong home with Trent Merrin crossing in just the second minute. The mobile Merrin, who made the second highest number of tackles at the club last season, has converted from prop to lock and it looks an astute switch by coach Steve Price.

The Eels matched them early, but two tries in the next 20 minutes saw the Dragons grab the initiative. First Nathan Fien, whose departure from the Warriors in 2009 is still lamented by a section of Mt Smart fans, created space for Ben Creagh to stride over; then Dugan's long-range break eventually led to Daniel Vidot crossing out wide.

At 16-0 down after 26 minutes, things looked bleak for Ricky Stuart's side. When giant winger Vidot crossed again 10 minutes later the match already seemed over, well before halftime.

All four of the Dragons' first-half tries came down the Eels' right flank. Price had done his homework and his players executed his plan toperfection.

There was no respite for Parramatta, with Dugan extending the Dragons' lead six minutes into the second half. He soared above Luke Kelly to claim a Jamie Soward bomb and his joy when he scored was palpable.

The fullback, who left Canberra under a cloud after a series of off-field incidents, was engaged in a personal duel with opposite number Jarryd Hayne all night.

Dugan enjoyed a strong debut for the red (or pink, last night) and whites in his first NRL game since round one.

The Eels are in a rebuilding year - it seems that sentence has been written almost every season over the last decade - and it is going to be an uncomfortable ride for their long-suffering fans. They were the team of the 1980s with four NRL premierships but their last triumph came almost three decades ago in 1986. Stuart has blooded half a dozen NRL rookies this year and all six were on the field last night.

They were unlucky to have a Rene Maitua try ruled out for a marginal forward pass early in the first half, which would have provided points and momentum, but struggled to create opportunities until the 61st minute, when Chris Sandow scampered through the ruck before sending Peni Terepo in for his first NRL try.

Dragons 32 (T. Merrin, B. Creagh, J. Dugan 2, D.Vidot 2 tries, J. Soward 4 goals) Eels 12 (P. Terepo 2 tries; C. Sandow 2 goals). Halftime: 20-0.

- Herald on Sunday

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