Dragons’ dream run comes to dramatic end
Warriors star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck responded to Matt Dufty's ambitious target of being the best No.1 on Sunday by claiming the match-winning try, then declaring: "You gotta leave your actions on the field."
Dufty almost gave St George Illawarra their fifth straight win when he showed off his trademark speed to steal the lead midway through the second half in Kogarah.
But Tuivasa-Sheck also proved why he was once crowned the Dally M medallist with a sensational solo try, beating three defenders to claim the game-deciding four-pointer.
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Kodi Nikorima then sealed the 20-14 win with a penalty goal, not only ending a two-game losing slide, but snapping a four-game Dragons winning streak that had fans dreaming of a finals tilt.
Tuivasa-Sheck's clutch play capped off a vintage performance in his 100th game for the club, which included a game-high 233 metres, seven tackle breaks and two line breaks to go with his try.
The Warriors No.1 admitted hearing about Dufty's pre-game comments in the lead-up.
"But you gotta leave your actions on the field. We'll see how everyone else sees it," he said.
"Most weeks I go in with a personal challenge against the opposition, against whoever's playing No.1. Dufty's been (in) form, he's doing really well.
"So it was another personal challenge for myself to go out there and try and beat my opposition."
His contribution also comes a week after coach Nathan Brown chastised his halves for leaving Tuivasa-Sheck running around like a goose in last week's heartbreaking loss to Manly.
The Warriors laid the foundation for the win by completing a near-perfect 39 of 40 sets, eclipsing the remarkable 45 from 47 they finished with in the corresponding fixture last season.
The win lifts Brown's side into the top eight with a 3-3 record - the first time the New Zealand-based club have been in the top half of the ladder this deep into a season since 2018.
It is also their first victory in Kogarah in 17 years.
DRAGONS POOR STARTERS
Winger Cody Ramsey opened the scoring for the home side before the visitors took the ascendency through Tohu Harris and Paul Turner tries.
The Warriors had a four-point halftime lead after Dragons winger Mikaele Ravalawa claimed his 16 try in his past 19 games.
Dragons coach Anthony Griffin pinned the defeat on another slow start - a concerning trend that had been overlooked during their winning run. But not by him.
"We've been doing that most of the season, we're offering up 12 points and today it came back to bite us," he said.
"Even though we've been winning, the last few weeks we've come up with some cheap points for the opposition. It hasn't hurt us ... but we come up against a really good committed side."
The game also marked the club debut of Josh McGuire following his mid-season move from North Queensland, re-uniting him with his former Brisbane coach in Griffin.
"I thought he was good. He carried the ball strong, he worked really hard defensively. I think he ended up playing 55 minutes straight," Griffin said.
CENTRAL ISSUES FOR WARRIORS
Six minutes into his comeback from a knee injury, Peta Hiku is again looking at an extended sideline stint after reeling out of a tackle that left him with a suspected shoulder dislocation.
Centre partner Adam Pompey also limped off with a possible knee injury late.
With summer recruit Euan Aitken also at least another month away with an ankle problem, Brown will be scraping the barrel to fill his three-quarter line against Melbourne next week.
Brown mentioned young Rocco Berry and mid-season signing Reece Walsh - widely tipped to be their future fullback - as possible options, while Paul Turner filled in off the bench.
Asked about Walsh's chance of selection, Brown said: "We won't say too much at the minute.
"We'll certainly have to look at some options. We've got a few things we can do with the team. We've got some young blokes there that, they need to play footy to get good."
Dragons fans have a love-hate relationship with many of their players, and that doesn't exclude winger Mikaele Ravalawa.
Wing partner Cody Ramsey gave the home side the early lead at Nestrata Jubilee Oval before the visitors took the ascendency through Tohu Harris and Paul Turner.
But Ravalawa responded by continuing his under-appreciated try-scoring run with a powerful charge to the corner to get the Dragons within four at halftime.
It was the Fijian's 16th try in his past 19 games, and seven from nine at Kogarah, before Dufty and Tuivasa-Sheck traded four-pointers midway through the second half.
BEN ON HUNT FOR ANZAC CLASH
Halfback Ben Hunt is a chance to face the Sydney Roosters in their annual Anzac Day clash at the SCG, four weeks after breaking his leg in their round three win over Manly.
The Dragons missed Hunt's playmaking against a stubborn Warriors' defence, with the hosts' attack spurning several opportunities in good-ball position.
Adam Clune is likely to make way for Hunt's return.
"He had a big run yesterday (Saturday). It's still touch-and-go. He's a chance, I don't think he's a good chance, but we'll see how he feels after yesterday," Griffin said of Hunt.
Originally published as Dragons' dream run comes to dramatic end