Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs were no match for a merciless St George Illawarra side who scored five tries to one in a 31-6 victory.
There were plenty of changes from last week’s 17 that lined up against the Rabbitohs with James Graham, David Klemmer and Sam Kasiano all suspended while Brett Morris suffered a hamstring injury. This saw Chase Stanley, Corey Thompson, Lloyd Perrett and Antonio Kaufusi come into the side. Josh Reynolds again started from the bench with Moses Mbye pairing Trent Hodkinson in the halves.
For the Dragons, Jason Nightingale was a late withdrawal injuring an ankle in the warm up. He was replaced by Peter Mata’utia.
It promised to be a tricky encounter for the Bulldogs, matching up against the competition’s stingiest defence. There was no lack of endeavour from the blue and whites throughout the 80 minutes, but they could only breach the Dragon's line on one occasion.
It was a bright start from Dogs and stand-in fullback Sam Perrett looked certain to score in the 4th minute on the back of an offload from a rampant Tony Williams but was held up by Josh Dugan.
The Dragons survived the early ambush and against the run of play, posted the first points of the match in the 11th minute via Dugan. Gareth Widdop converted for a 6-0 lead.
The Dragons looked to have extended their lead in the next set of six with Dylan Farrell chasing down a kick only for the centre dropped the ball over the line.
Bulldogs played a frantic brand of football in the first 20 minutes but were repelled time and time again by the league’s best defensive unit.
Reynolds was injected into the game in the 30th minute. Not long after that, Perrett returned the earlier favour to Dugan with a try-saving one-on-one tackle to deny his opposite number.
In the 34th minute a bullet pass from Benji Marshall, attacking the short-side, gave Mata’utia a free run to the line. Widdop added the extras from the sideline to make it 12-0.
Marshall again opened up the Bulldog’s defence in the 38th minute with a short ball putting Tyson Frizell through half a gap which saw the backrower crash over. Widdop converted for an 18-0 lead.
Despite the lopsided score line, deputy skipper Aiden Tolman put in another big first-half shift with 13 hit-ups (107m) and 24 tackles. Williams made 11 runs (105m) which included three tackle breaks and three offloads.
It was an energetic start again from the Bulldogs and they finally made their bank of possession count with a short ball from Williams putting Josh Morris through to score next to the posts. Hodkinson added the two to cut the deficit to 12 in the 50th minute.
In the subsequent set Frizell caught Tim Browne with a nasty high shot which saw Browne medi-cabbed from the field in a neck brace. Frizell was placed on report.
Perrett fumbled a grubber in the 56th minute on his own line and it proved costly with Joel Thompson evading Stanley to post his team’s fourth try of the afternoon. Widdop added the two for a 24-6 lead.
Bulldogs came close in the 61st minute but Josh Jackson was held up, with the Dragon’s scrambling defence proving to be the story of the match.
In the 67th minute, Marshall snapped a field goal to make the score an unassailable 25-6. Three minutes later Euan Aitken collected a Widdop grubber to touch down before Widdop converted for a 31-6 lead.
Frank Pritchard looked to have steamrolled his way over in the final minutes but in a fitting finale, was again held up.
Bulldogs will be looking to bounce back against Manly at ANZ Stadium next Friday night. Kick-off 7:35pm local time.
DRAGONS 31 (Dugan, Mata’utia, Frizell, Thompson, Aitken Tries; Widdop 5 Goals; Marshall 1 Field Goal) def. BULLDOGS 6 (J.Morris Tries; Hodkinson 1 Goal)
At: ANZ Stadium