World Club Series: Warrington Wolves 12-18 St George Illawarra

By Phil CartwrightBBC Sport at the Halliwell Jones Stadium
Tyson Frizell
Tyson Frizell opened the scoring for St George inside the first two minutes
World Club Series
Warrington Wolves: (10) 12
Tries: O'Brien, Atkins Goals: O'Brien 2
St George Illawarra: (12) 18
Tries: Frizell, Thompson, Dugan Goals: Widdop 3

A second-half try from Josh Dugan consigned Warrington Wolves to defeat by St George Illawarra in the first match of the 2015 World Club Series.

Tyson Frizell and Joel Thompson gave the Australian side a 12-10 half-time lead, Gareth O'Brien and Ryan Atkins replying for Warrington.

O'Brien's penalty levelled the scores but Dugan's try 16 minutes from time settled the game in St George's favour.

Wigan face Brisbane and St Helens host South Sydney in the remaining ties.

And it will be left to the two sides that contested Super League's Grand Final last October to defend England's honour in the new-look competition, which has been expanded to six teams in 2015, after Tony Smith's Wolves were beaten by a team that finished 11th in Australia's National Rugby League last season.

St George, winners of the 2011 World Club Challenge, crossed inside 90 seconds through Wales second-rower Frizell after Warrington's Ashton Sims had spilled the ball during the first set of six.

The hosts levelled courtesy of a moment of magic from O'Brien, who flew through a gap in the St George backline 40 metres out and, with half-back partner Richie Myler screaming for a pass in support, dummied his way past the last defender to cruise over the line.

Parity did not last long, though, Thompson grounding Gareth Widdop's grubber kick to restore the Dragons' advantage.

Kevin Penny and Eto Nabuli
Eto Nabuli was controversially not sent to the sin-bin for this high tackle on Kevin Penny

St George winger Eto Nabuli, who had earlier denied Wire captain Joel Monaghan with a wonderful last-ditch intervention, somehow escaped further punishment for a mistimed high tackle on Kevin Penny, referee Ben Thaler choosing to award just a penalty.

Warrington centre Atkins went over from the resulting set to close the deficit to two points at the interval.

The Dragons edged an attritional start to the second period, Dugan and Dylan Farrell both held up in goal.

Warrington's defensive effort was rewarded when Benji Marshall was penalised for a high shot on O'Brien, who kicked the goal from 15 metres to make it 12-12 with 20 minutes to play, only for Dragons full-back Dugan to expertly gather Marshall's reverse kick and put St George back in front.

Warrington threatened the try line from another close-range penalty late on, but when Monaghan failed to grasp a fired pass out wide, their hopes of victory on a bitterly cold night disappeared.

Warrington head coach Tony Smith:

"It was the right result. They deserved to win but there wasn't much between us.

"We were a bit sloppy with some aspects of our game. Within our group we had some absolutely outstanding performers and we had some down the other end as well. We just didn't quite get it all together unfortunately."

On Eto Nabuli's high shot on Kevin Penny: "We played a lot of different rules tonight. Our man in the middle didn't want to blow for a penalty in the game and was forced into it in the latter stages, but I don't think he wanted to give that as a penalty. I think he wanted to have a clean sheet at half-time."

St George head coach Paul McGregor:

"The physicality of the game was good for everyone to see and the crowd enjoyed it. The whole nine days here has been fantastic.

"The intensity that the boys trained at and the energy they found, in sometimes trying conditions, was good.

"The environment they played in tonight - it won't get much tougher than that back home."

On Nabuli's tackle: "It was a reflex action and the bloke [Penny] jumped to his feet quicker than anyone. I don't think there was too much in it."

Warrington Wolves: Wheeler; Evans, Monaghan, Atkins, Penny; O'Brien, Myler; Hill, Clark, Sims, Currie, Laithwaite, Westwood.

Replacements: Bridge, Harrison, Higham, England.

St George Illawarra: Dugan; Nabuli, Nielsen, Farrell, Nightingale; Widdop, Marshall; O'Brien, Rein, Ah Mau, Frizell, Thompson, Creagh.

Replacements: Merrin, De Belin, Marketo, Rose.

Att: 13,080

Ref: Ben Thaler (England).

Warrington 12-18 St George
Warrington players reacted angrily to some high tackles from their Australian opponents
St George celebrate
St George start their NRL season against Melbourne Storm on Monday, 9 March