GAMES OF THE YEAR | #10 – R21 Dragons v Bulldogs
Looking back on the remarkable year that was, NSWRL.com.au counts down the 10 best games from the 2018 Intrust Super Premiership NSW season. At No.10, a halfback known for his kicking would haunt the Bulldogs with his boot.
Before the Bulldogs ended the Dragons’ season, Darren Nicholls made a habit of sinking the hearts of the Bulldogs.
It was Round 10 at Belmore Sports Ground when Nicholls, in the 74th minute, landed a field goal to snatch a one-point victory. When the teams met in Round 21, déjà vu struck again in Wollongong.
The contest was a low scoring slug; only one try was scored in the second half. St George Illawarra needed this win; they were sitting in fifth spot with the Bulldogs in fourth – a chance to overtake.
Making the top four is imperative at this level given the revolving door of players. That was proven when the eventual top four teams all made the Preliminary Finals. This game was important for both teams.
A Lachlan Burr try in the dying seconds of the first half meant the Bulldogs had a 12-6 lead at the break and a penalty goal in the 54th minute extended the lead to eight, so the Dragons needed to finish strong.
Hame Sele turned out to be the game changer when a monster shot on Jayden Okunbor jolted the ball free and gave them good field position.
The moment would be crucial, with some enterprising play soon drawing the home side level. Nicholls found Adam Clune, who sent a brilliant cut-out pass to Reuben Garrick – and the centre’s overhead catch and spin to finish off the movement was equally impressive.
When Nicholls converted from out wide, the score was 14 points apiece.
Alarm bells must have been ringing for the Bulldogs, but when Nicholls saw an opportunity he didn’t disappoint anyone outside of the blue-and-whites.
15 metres out he calmly split the sticks in the 70th minute, a crucial play as it was the final score of the game. The Dragons jumped to third position with the 15-14 victory and pushed the Bulldogs down to fifth.
They would play one more time in the finals, with the Bulldogs – who eventually won the premiership – won a tight Preliminary Final.
Speaking to Zac Woolford after the win, he said the primary plan was to limit the kicking of Nicholls. They had obviously learned their lessons from those one-point thrillers.
Watch the highlights of the game in the video at the top of the page.