Nathan Green (right), in action against the Bulldogs earlier this year, was a stand out against Penrith. Picture: ANTHONY JOHNSONSt George Illawarra’s fairytale run in the Toyota Cup has found another gear following a comprehensive 44-20 semi-final win over Penrith.
The Dragons began strong in the opening 40 minutes before piling on five second-half tries, including a 20-point haul to fullback Adam Quinlan.
The momentum generated by 10 wins from 13 matches was quickly apparent as the Red V ripped through Penrith’s leaky defence, particularly in the middle third of the field.
It was a stark contrast from the first half of the year, where they managed only three wins from 11 matches.
“We made it a focus point during the week that we had to start well,” Dragons centre Nathan Green said.
“That first half was probably one of our best all year and it set us up really well. We know that we’re not a big team but we’re a quick team, so going through the middle of the ruck was a really good option for us.
“Hopefully we can go all the way. We’ve just got to make sure we get our game right, start well and see what happens.”
The Panthers threw everything they could at the eighth-placed Dragons, but desperation and brilliant try-line defence thwarted the bulk of their opportunities.
Hooker Craig Garvey, Quinlan and halfback Jared Allen were among the Dragons’ standout performers.
A handling error from winger Kayne Brennan on the Dragons’ 30-metre line handed the Panthers key field position in the opening minutes.
Penrith hooker Blake South bounced on the opportunity the following set, diving through the Dragons’ defence for a try.
But some ingenuity from Allen catapulted the Dragons back into the match minutes later.
The talented halfback darted through the middle of the Penrith defence, running 25 metres before offloading to Quinlan to score.
The Dragons breached the line on their next possession through lock Blake Phillips, handing them a 12-6 lead after 14 minutes, before another four-pointer to Kyle Martens.
The Panthers bridged the gap to eight shortly before half-time through a try to Tony Satini.
It was a similar chain of events in the second half. Satini crossed for his second in the 49th minute before tries to back-to-back tries Jordan Hay, Brennan and Todd Ryan extended the Dragons lead.
Tom Eisenhuth’s 68th minute try kept Penrith within sight of the lead, before a final onslaught from the Dragons put the game beyond doubt.
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