Wests Tigers and the St. George-Illawarra Dragons will again do battle this Sunday in another installment of one of rugby league’s more underrated rivalry games.
Having met 32 times since the Club’s inception in 2000, both teams have enjoyed great wins en route to maiden premierships, along with last-second heartbreaking defeats.
In this week’s Top 5 at Five brought to you by Share Care, we count down the Club’s Top 5 games against the St. George-Illawarra Dragons over the years.
* * * * *
5. 2000, Round 6 — Wests Tigers 15 def. Dragons 9
The first meeting between the two sides proved to be a memorable one for a number of reasons, including the infamous Phantom Siren at Wollongong. Just before the break, Wests Tigers players would mistake an air horn in the crowd for the siren, kicking early in the count and subsequently giving the Dragons the ball back just before the break. They wouldn’t let that affect the result, however, as Trent Barrett and Craig Field traded field goals to lock the score up at 9-all before fullback Joel Caine stole the victory with Wests Tigers with a try just four minutes before the full-time siren actually sounded.
4. 2005, Round 16 — Wests Tigers 32 def. Dragons 24
The meeting between the two sides later in the year is certainly more memorable than their Round 16 clash (and we’ll get to that one later), but it’s important not to forget the significance of this one for what was to come in 2005. Sitting in 12th position with just 11 games remaining in the year, Wests Tigers went in as firm underdogs against the Dragons but stunned their opponents to lead 32-6 midway through the second half. The Dragons threatened to come back and spoil the party when they reduced the margin to 32-24, but Tim Sheens’ side held on to record a victory that would spark the Club’s infamous eight-game winning streak that swept them into the 2005 finals series.
3. 2006, Round 1 — Wests Tigers 24 def. Dragons 15
With the memory of the 2005 finals series (I promise we’ll get to it soon) still firm in people’s minds, the Round 1 showdown against the Dragons in 2006 provided a tasty encounter on paper and certainly lived up to the billing in the end. After a tight start, Mark Gasnier’s third try of the day put the home side in front 14-8 before Paul Whatuira hit back to level the match. Barrett’s field goal put the Dragons in front once again, before a moment of magic from Marshall gave Wests Tigers the win by laying on a try for debutant Michael Crockett. It would be revealed after the match too that the five-eighth had played the entire second half with a fractured cheekbone.
2. 2011, Qualifying Final — Wests Tigers 21 def. Dragons 12
Following on from the heartbreak of the 2010 finals series for Wests Tigers as the Dragons knocked them out 13-12, it was sweet revenge the year later when they came up against the Dragons in the Qualifying Final. Trailing 12-6 at half-time, both Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington scored tries to claw Wests Tigers back into the contest before a field goal and penalty goal from Marshall late in the match ensured the nine-point win. Both teams would be knocked out from the 2011 finals series in the following week.
1. 2005, Preliminary Final — Wests Tigers 20 def. Dragons 12
There could be no other game on top of this list as Wests Tigers stunned the highly-fancied Dragons en route to the 2005 Grand Final. In front of a highly vocal crowd at the Sydney Football Stadium, Wests Tigers scored in the opening two minutes of the game to silence the Dragons fans, before Dene Halatau crossed for his first career double to put Wests Tigers in the box position. Despite boasting a star-studded back-line and world class forward pack, the Dragons were unable to fight back in the contest, as Wests Tigers kept them at bay for the final 20 minutes of the match to continue their fairytale giant-killing run and book their spot in the infamous 2005 Grand Final.