‘Wasn’t pretty’: Shane Flanagan ‘spray’ sparks seven-year Dragons first against Panthers

In a game of two halves, the St George Illawarra Dragons defeated three-time defending champions Penrith Panthers 22-10 at Bluebet Stadium on Saturday night.

In a game without five Panthers and three Dragons through Origin duty, Penrith looked set to do what they have done over the past four seasons with players out, leading 10-0 at half-time.

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But the second 40 saw all traffic go the other way as the Dragons got into action.

The first goal in the second set of 40 was a sign of things to come after winger Sione Finau tore through the Panthers defense and was finally dispossessed for a first down on the 50 meter line.

From that moment on, it was all right for the Dragons as the visitors took the lead in the 48th minute and kept the Panthers scoreless in the second half, which came in four unanswered tries.

It’s not only the Dragons’ first win at Penrith since 2017, but their first win over the Panthers since then.

Commentary on Fox League asked if Dragons coach Shane Flanagan had turned his lips at half-time, which was confirmed by his son and five-eighth Kyle Flanagan.

“I’m not sure if it was a pep talk, but I think it was definitely a spray,” Kyle said, speaking to Fox Sports.

Unfortunately, the Fox League cameras were not in the dugouts during the break, but the coach himself confirmed that it was hot in the locker room.

Fox Sports’ Lara Pitt said: “I just want to know what you said at halftime.”

Flanagan replied: “No, no.

“It wasn’t pretty, was it?” he said to Captain Jack de Belin, “especially certain individuals.

“But I was really disappointed with the way we played the first half, just turning the football over. It was terrible. We just didn’t give ourselves a chance.

“We needed a break, we definitely needed a half-time and I had to get them in the room and to their credit they responded really well.”

Asked if it was the first time it had blown up, de Belin laughed as Flanagan said: “I did something. I probably only get two or three a year and I used one.”

Flanagan said it was “just awful”, highlighting his side’s consistency.

Asked about the spray, De Belin said: “It was necessary, he was only telling the truth and it was fair. We got the result we wanted, so it was necessary to be fair.”

Backrowers Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Luciano Leilua heard their coach blast off and started the second half run riot for the Dragons.

The pair made a combined 10 tackles as Penrith’s pack struggled to contain.

“It’s his (Faitala-Mariner’s) best game for the club,” said Flanagan.

“He was back on the right wing and I know he likes to play there and every time he carried the ball he was hard to handle.

“He was the one who could keep his head up the whole game.”

With five Origin stars not playing, along with the injured Nathan Cleary, the Panthers fielded a very inexperienced side and it showed in the second half.

The Dragons had all the momentum and the young Penrith side couldn’t figure out how to defend.

Without Isaac Yeo, the Panthers struggled to find their way to the top.

“We had a lot of inexperience tonight and we had to learn something,” Cleary said.

“There were times when we just needed to settle down and settle down, but we just couldn’t.”

However, there was a bright spot for the Panthers after second-half winger Jesse McLean scored a superb try just before half-time.

Chasing a bomb that the Dragons believed was going over the touchline, the winger tiptoed to the touchline, caught the ball and ducked under the attack of Dragons winger Tyrell Sloan to score a brilliant try.

“It’s a brilliant try and it started at the other end of the pitch where he accelerated hard into the defensive line,” Fox Sports commentator Michael Ennis said.

“He overtook them. There’s their (Penrith’s) system.

“That’s one hell of a catch and one hell of a try by young Jesse McLean. It’s brilliant.”

With Matt Jones, NCA Newswire

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