Michael Burgess

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

NRL: Dragons go down in flames

James Maloney scored a try, had a hand in several others and kicked impeccably. Photo / Getty Images
James Maloney scored a try, had a hand in several others and kicked impeccably. Photo / Getty Images

Dragons 0
Roosters 36

It's a long time since the Dragons have been so devoid of fire. While the Roosters continued their impressive form with their fourth win in five games, the St George Illawarra side are a shadow of the team that were a dominant presence a few years ago.

Last night, the 2010 Premiers conceded the most points ever to the team from the eastern suburbs in a rivalry that stretches back to the early 20th century. The game was wrapped up with more than 30 minutes to play and the Dragons were held to zero at Kogarah Oval for just the second time in their history (the first was against Penrith in round 11).

James Maloney made an accomplished return to the NRL, scoring a try, having a hand in several others and he kicked impeccably, including conversions from near the sideline. Sonny Bill Williams had a quiet match and didn't return to action in the second half after he was reported to have a slight hamstring twinge.

After winning three games in a row at the start of the season, the Dragons have struggled since. They have now won just two of their last 10 games and their play-off hopes are hanging on the edge (though realistically they seem already gone). The mid-season departure of Jamie Soward has left Nathan Fien with almost all of the playmaking duties; the former Warrior has coped manfully but it has been a huge load.

The Roosters, meanwhile, just keep on rolling and this win moves them back to second on the ladder. Maloney made a surprise return last night, just 10 days after suffering a fractured cheekbone in the second State of Origin match.

The Roosters made the perfect start. On their first attacking set Maloney initiated a break with a sweeping pass, backed up to take the pass from Michael Jennings and scored near the posts in the third minute. Boyd Cordner doubled the lead in the 12th and there were fears of a cricket score for the home fans.

The Dragons stiffened their resolve after that early shock and they created some good opportunities but were let down by needless mistakes. No-look passes missed their targets, decoy runners got in the way, errant kicks and mistimed runs - there was plenty of effort but little execution. That is never going to work against the boys from Bondi. While most focus on their attack, it is their defence that has anchored their superb run in 2013. The Roosters have the second best defence in the competition and make teams work incredibly hard for tries.

A misdirected Fien grubber saw Jake Friend snaffle the ball, which eventually led to Jennings sprinting over 80m to score in the 33rd minute.

The Dragons started the second half with purpose but it didn't last. Shaun Kenny-Dowall scored a fortunate try in the 48th minute after a spilt bomb but then two tries in the space of four minutes killed the game off. Aidan Guerra strolled over after everyone bought Mitchell Pearce's dummy, then Jake Friend and Jennings created space down a short blind side for Daniel Tupou.

Dragons 0 Roosters 36 (J. Maloney, B. Cordner, M. Jennings, S. Kenny-Dowall, A. Guerra, D. Tupou tries; Maloney 6 goals). Halftime: 18-0

- Herald on Sunday

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