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Dragons 19 Warriors 10
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Warriors crash out as Fien finishes with a bang

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Defiant St George Illawarra coach Steve Price says his side’s nine-point victory against the Warriors  will not be his last in charge despite the Dragons slumping to their worst season in the joint-venture’s history.

A statement released by the Dragons last week indicated an internal and external review into coaching and other aspects of football operations would take place at the end of the season. Despite just seven wins, Price was confident he would see out the one-year contract extension he inked earlier this year after watching his side beat the Warriors at WIN Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Neil Henry has emerged as a potential coaching option for the Dragons. Price’s assistant, Steve Folkes, is moving on.

‘‘I’m not concerned one bit,’’ Price said of the review. ‘‘The season we had, we’re a proud footy club and we want to do better. I’m under contract next year. I will continue to improve myself. I am very confident [I will be coach].

‘‘We have to look at ways we need to improve going forward and that starts with me. It has been tough. You learn a lot about yourself.’’

Two vintage plays from the retiring Nathan Fien ended St George Illawarra’s poor season on a high and quashed the Warriors’ faint hope of a top-eight finish.


While Fien has started all season wearing No.7, it was his switch to hooker that sparked St George Illawarra to life midway through the first half. Down 4-0 early, Fien laid on the first points for the Dragons when he jumped out of dummy half, making a blindside line break, before passing to allow Brett Morris to sprint down the flank.

A classy offload from Morris, surrounded by two defenders, to centre Charly Runciman continued the play before Runciman offloaded to Adam Quinlan, who raced 20 metres to score and give the Dragons a 6-4 lead eight minutes before half-time.

Fien  set-up the Dragons’ next try with a crossfield kick in their first real attacking opportunity of the second half. Winger Nathan Green, who received a late call-up after Daniel Vidot was dropped for turning up to training late on Friday,  outleapt Manu Vatuvei  to score in the corner to give St George Illawarra a 10-4 lead three minutes after half-time. ‘‘Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards,’’ Price said. ‘‘Take out the past two weeks, which I was really disappointed with, [but] prior to those tough losses, I couldn’t ask for much more of the playing group. A lot of those young players were thrown in a lot earlier than I anticipated. Sometimes you’ve got to take some pain.’’

After withstanding a barrage of attack, the Dragons eventually leaked a four-pointer through Vatuvei who jumped above Green to score from a  Nathan Friend kick. It came after the Warriors dominated the midway point of the second half. Despite the pressure, their attack lacked penetration against a determined Dragons defence.

A Shaun Johnson sideline goal levelled the score with 14 minutes left but the Dragons scored nine points in less than 10 minutes to wrap up the game.

With the Dragons in front by one after a Josh Drinkwater field goal,  Chase Stanley added a penalty  and Runciman scored in the dying stages. The Warriors played without intensity despite  the chance of a finals finish. Warriors coach Matthew Elliott lamented his team’s effort. ‘‘We are a better group of people and team than that,’’ Elliott said. ‘‘It’s something we need to work on together. It’s a final reminder that our season has been determined by a frame of mind we show up in sometimes.’’

The Warriors, who haven’t won in Wollongong since defeating the Illawarra Steelers in 1996, had an up-and-down season and their inconsistency  cost them a chance of qualifying for the finals.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 19 (N Green A Quinlan C Runciman tries C Stanley 3 goals J Drinkwater field goal) bt WARRIORS 10 (E Taylor M Vatuvei tries S Johnson goal) at WIN Stadium. Referee: Jared Maxwell, Henry Perenara. Crowd: 9,022.