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Nathan Blacklock's eighth hat-trick for the St George Illawarra club has helped catapult the Dragons to a 34-28 victory over the second placed Penrith Panthers at WIN Stadium today. Blacklock has now scored an incredible 12 tries in just eight games since his return from rugby union and moved his career stats to 91 tries in 97 matches for the merged entity and 112 four pointers in his 125 game career. The triple treat was all the more special for the flying winger as he was performing in front of a select group of family and friends from his hometown. Blacklock and Panthers five eighth Preston Campbell hand picked 40 people from Tingha and Inverell in New South Wales’ north and bussed them down with the help of Dragons sponsor Crystal Bears to witness the match. The win leaves the Dragons clinging onto eighth place on the NRL ladder and with next weeks clash being against the seventh place Warriors the result was very timely. “It’s good to win any game and Penrith have been on top of the competition so it was a good win for us,” Dragons coach Nathan Brown said. “The great thing is that we hung in there, that was encouraging, I thought we played some good football and we kept getting across the stripe which is good.” After leading 20-0 and then 30-10 the Dragons let the Panthers back to within a converted try but ultimately did enough to stay in the top eight. The fact the home side had lapses worried coach Brown but with a positive result in the bag he was still smiling. “We led 30-10 and could have won by plenty but we just played dumb football. Too many guys played too much for themselves and we didn’t think about the team,” he said. “If we had of played a bit cleverer instead of worrying about reading your own name in the paper it could have been a lot better.” “On the other hand the effort was great because they can score points, that’s why they’re leading the comp.” Centre Matt Cooper produced a flawless display in both attack and defence justifying his rise to representative football this year. The Shellharbour junior was amazing, scoring a try and having a hand in two others while in defence he thwarted several Panthers chances with dominant, blockbusting tackles. Hooker Mark Riddell caught the Panthers by surprise when he darted from dummy half on the last tackle and buried under Joe Galuvao, Rhys Wesser and Luke Priddis to post first points in just the sixth minute. A sideline conversion and a penalty goal from the nuggetty hooker gave the Dragons an 8-0 advantage before video Referee Eddie Ward entered the match. Ward was called upon for the first of many times when Blacklock slammed the ball down in the 15th minute despite the attentions of Priddis. Cooper made a bust down the left edge before passing inside to John Wilshere who found Blacklock and the winger from Tingha rolled over in the Priddis tackle to touchdown. Ward gave the green light after referee Paul Simpkins had question marks on a possible double movement and the grounding of the football. The video referee was back in the spotlight just seven minutes later, this time it was Priddis claiming a try in similar circumstances. Ward flashed a red light sighting a double movement and Wilshere became an instant hero, as it was the Kumul winger who brought the Penrith rake down just short. The decision was barely off the big screen before Ward was called upon again and it was another favourable result for the red and whites. Centre David Howell was awarded a try after Brent Kite burst through the line before trying to pass to Blacklock only to see Campbell knock the pass away. Blacklock then tried to regather only to knock the ball into Luke Rooney and then Howell dived on the crumbs. Replays suggested Blacklock’s touch may have travelled forward but Ward disagreed and he posted a green light to send the Dragons ahead 20-0. Three minutes later the Dragons should have been celebrating another four pointer but instead it was the Panthers who were all smiles following a Campbell 70metre intercept try. Dragons five eighth Shaun Timmins was confronted with a two on one scenario and unfortunately his pass went to Campbell instead of Blacklock and the Panthers side were on the board at 20-4. When Rooney outjumped Blacklock to gather a Campbell cross field bomb with half hour gone the Penrith boys were back at 20-10 but another favourable decision from Ward saw the Dragons lead 24-10 at the break. With six minutes left in the half Brett Firman grubbered into the right corner and Blacklock pounced just half a metre from touch in goal to send the crowd wild. It looked as if the margin would be extended just two minutes into the second stanza when Ben Hornby dived over but this time Ward denied the home side because Timmins was off side from the Riddell grubber. However Cooper did extend the lead just three minutes later when he burst onto a Firman inside ball to crash over on the right edge. Paul Whatuira sparked a Panther revival after 54 minutes when he crossed from a Luke Swain bust before Campbell had his second not long after and Dragons fans were nervous at 30-22. But when Firman produced a stunning 40-20 kick into the teeth of a stiff breeze with just 13 minutes left the Dragons capitalised. Cooper found space from the scrum and sent Wilshere away before he found Blacklock back on the inside for the match-clinching try. Ward denied Blacklock a fourth try before awarding Rooney his second in the final minutes, setting up a tense finish but the Dragons held on for a stirring win. “If it’s going to get us three tries every week, I’m sure the boss won’t mind doing it,” coach Brown said of the club supporting the busload of Tingha supporters. Brown said he has run out of superlatives for his freakish winger and challenged the media to do their best. Captain Lance Thompson revealed he had taken the young team aside prior to the match and told them to just enjoy their football, a message he said he would reiterate. “I’ll be telling the players as a captain to concentrate on each game. I said to them yesterday no matter what happens there’s going to be a lot of pressure on us,” “Just go out there and have fun. Your career is very short, you can just ask Browny it can be over in a second but as long as you’re here have fun and I think that’s what the guys did today and we came away with the win.” ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 34 (N Blacklock 3, M Riddell, D Howell, M Cooper tries; M Riddell 3, B Firman 2 goals) d. PENRITH PANTHERS 28 (P Campbell 2, L Rooney 2, P Whatuira tries; R Girdler 4 goals) Crowd: 15,310