Dragons back on top in NRL with win over Manly

SYDNEY (AP) James Graham and Kurt Mann scored their first tries of the season as first placed St. George Illawarra matched its best start in Australia’s National Rugby League with a 32-8 win over Manly in the weekend’s 15th round.

Graham and Mann were the last members of the Dragons‘ regular starting side in 14 matches this season to add their names to the try-scoring lists.

Their efforts on Saturday helped St. George Illawarra regain outright first place with its 11th win of the season, matching its record in 2010 when it won 11 of its first 15 matches and went on to win the premiership.

The Dragons moved two points clear in first place of South Sydney, Penrith and the New Zealand Warriors, prior to next weekend’s State of Origin clash and other representative matches.

”That’s the third game in 11 days for our Origin players,” Dragons coach Paul McGregor said. ”We were on a five day turn with our main squad so to play that type of footy against a side which are very capable of scoring points and to keep them to one try, defensively we were very good.”

Souths beat Parramatta 42-24 to open the 15th round on Thursday with Robert Johnson scoring three of its eight tries and Alex Johnston two. Josh Hoffman scored the first and last of Parramatta’s five tries and Jarryd Hayne also touched down.

The Warriors beat North Queensland 23-16 in Townsville with a try and match-winning performance from captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Penrith may have been distracted by next week’s State of Origin when it lost 32-6 to Sydney City to give up the share of the lead it previously held with the Dragons.

”You don’t want to put it down to it but sometimes minds wander and you get too far ahead instead of a game,” Penrith prop James Tamou said. ”It’s a tough period this year with all the rep footy going on, for these representative players just to find the motivation after a big game during the week.”

Latrell Mitchell scored three tries and Blake Ferguson two tries for the Roosters.