Marshall's Dragon debut ruined

Benji Marshall
Benji Marshall

Jarryd Hayne won the battle of the NSW fullback contenders as Parramatta surpassed their five wins last season with a razzle-dazzle 36-0 defeat of St George Illawarra at a sold-out Pirtek Stadium.

In a stunning endorsement for Saturday afternoon football and the star power of returning Dragons playmaker Benji Marshall, a crowd of 18,631 turned out to watch the Eels record their sixth win in the opening 10 rounds under new coach Brad Arthur.

It was a disappointing and frustrating first outing in the famous Red V for Marshall but he was far from alone in a St George Illawarra team which completed just 19 of their 31 sets after committing 19 errors and conceding eight penalties.

In contrast, the Eels could do little wrong as they completed a shut-out of the Dragons, while racing in six spectacular tries.

Hayne crossed for two of them and also came up with a trysaving tackle when he ran down Test winger Brett Morris in another five-star performance for the Eels superstar.

After running 138 metres from 15 carries of the ball, which included one line-break and five tackle breaks, Hayne was rested after his second try in the 73rd minute.

While Hayne will be one of the first players chosen for the Blues, NSW coach Laurie Daley had been undecided whether to select him at right centre or fullback but there would appear no doubt now that he will wear the No.1 jersey in Origin I after outplaying his St George Illawarra opposite Josh Dugan.

The 26-year-old had plenty of support from teammates, with halfback Chris Sandow, five-eighth Corey Norman, lock Joseph Paulo and hooker Nathan Peats creating havoc for the defence.

Centre Will Hopoate may have also staked a late claim for a Blues berth with his best performance since returning from a two-year Mormon mission to join the Eels this season.

Hopoate, who played Origin in 2011, threw the final pass for one of winger Ken Sio's two tries but more impressively was responsible for one-on-one strips on Marshall and St George Illawarra five-eighth Gareth Widdop that helped turn momentum in favour of the home side.

The only down side for the Eels was forward Darcy Lussick, who has been suspended five times previously, being placed on report for a high shot on Dugan in the 13th minute.

Hopoate eased the pressure on his teammates when he stole the ball back from Widdop but he was lucky to remain on the field after being penalised in the 16th minute for holding St George Illawarra centre Gerard Beale back as he was chasing a Widdop kick for a try that was disallowed.

Sio crossed for his first try in the 21st minute off a cut-out pass from Peats that followed a good run from Paulo.

The Dragons had a second try disallowed when Mike Cooper was called back for a forward pass from Marshall and the pair were involved in another mix-up that led to Norman picking up a loose ball and running 80 metres to score in the 33rd minute.

Leading 12-0 at half-time, the Eels showed their intent to go on with the job when Junior Paulo bumped off Mitch Rein, Cooper and Bronson Harrison before he crashed into Dugan and passed to unmarked Hayne in the 44th minute.

Sio's second try was a spectacular effort in which the ball went through eight sets of hands before he scored in the 49th minute and further tries to Pauli Pauli and Hayne rounded out the win.

This story Marshall's Dragon debut ruined first appeared on Brisbane Times.