Brett Morris scampers down the sideline in the Dragons’ 38-6 rout of the Warriors at WIN Stadium on Saturday night. Picture: DAVE TEASEDeparting Dragons skipper Ben Hornby climbed out of his sick bed to lead the virus-ridden Dragons to a comprehensive 38-6 win over the New Zealand Warriors at WIN Stadium tonight.
Hornby spent two days in hospital earlier this week with a stomach bug, all the while battling an ankle complaint, as he filled in at hooker for long periods of the Dragons’ win.
Daniel Vidot was also a last-minute scratching with gastro and Mitch Rein was virtually a passenger due to the same condition, but the re-shuffled Dragons ended their last home match of the season on a positive note.
“I actually thought I wasn’t even going to get to the game,” Hornby said after he and team-mate Dean Young bid farewell to the Wollongong faithful. “I thought there would be all this celebration going on and I wouldn’t even be here.
“I woke up about 2.30 this morning and felt a lot better. I just hoped I was going to get better throughout the day and I did. In the end fate played its part.”
St George Illawarra coach Steve Price hailed the effort of Hornby and his ill troops.
“We have had a fair bit of sickness through our footy club for the last two weeks now,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons Mitch Rein didn’t go back out there.
“Ben [Hornby] was in hospital for two days this week so it was an amazing effort to get out there and actually play. We were good enough to be able to cover.”
Fullback Jason Nightingale typified the effort of a makeshift Dragons with a second-half double to put the Warriors out of reach, before Josh Miller, Ben Creagh and Matt Cooper helped themselves to four-pointers to complete the seven tries-to-one rout.
It was the Dragons’ most potent attacking display of the season, eclipsing the 36-12 victory over the Wests Tigers way back in round three.
Despite both teams being out of finals contention, the Dragons looked like the only side with any motivation and piled on five unanswered tries in the second stanza.
The New Zealand-based side wouldn’t have impressed caretaker coach Tony Iro in his first game in charge. The Warriors axed Brian McLennan earlier in the week – less than a year after appointing him to succeed Ivan Cleary.
Hornby was forced to play in an uncustomary hooker role to cover the loss of Rein and even had the honour of spraying a touchline conversion just wide in the final minute after Cooper’s try.
The Warriors weren’t without drama too, with international halfback Shaun Johnson helped off the field in the first half following a bad head knock. He didn’t return and was the visitors’ only try-scorer in a lacklustre display.
Despite looking far more threatening than their opponents, the Dragons clung to a 12-6 lead at the break after a bizarre first-half.
Originally named on the bench before being thrust into the starting side, Will Matthews opened the scoring after plucking a Jamie Soward bomb out of the air.
Johnson drew first blood for the Warriors in similar circumstances after pouncing on a deflected James Maloney kick in the 28th minute.
Chase Stanley restored the Dragons’ lead barely five minutes later after latching onto a Matt Prior pass when veteran centre Cooper bamboozled the New Zealand defence with a slaloming run across field.
The result extended the Warriors’ miserable run in Wollongong to nine consecutive matches. They have never won at WIN Stadium.
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