NATHAN Fien last night consoled shattered teenager Cameron King by reminding him of his own remarkable comeback from an early-season injury to play a leading role in the premiership which preceded St George Illawarra being crowned world champions yesterday.
An 11th hour selection with only two first grade appearances, 19-year-old King scored the 57th-minute winning try in the Dragons’ 21-15 World Club Challenge triumph over Wigan at DW Stadium – only to be forced off a minute later with a torn pectoral muscle which is expected to sideline him for 20 weeks.
King was too distraught to speak to media representatives, instead issuing a statement, but Fien – the man he replaced for his glorious five minutes – told Fairfax: “I had a little word to him after the game. I’ve come back from two reco’s. He’s only young, he’s just starting his career. Expect big things from him over the next couple of years. He’s very distraught, he’s upset, as can be expected..
“But I guess he’ll remember this moment forever. He’s scored pretty much the winning try and played a role in the World Club Challenge which is fantastic.”
Fien suffered a double fracture to the ankle in round one last year but his agonising recovery was rewarded by a premiership ring. King’s statement said he was “excited to play in a game with great atmosphere.
“To score was a good feeling, to get the team back ahead.’
“(But) I just went to make a tackle on the fullback. I reached for him and felt it straight away. I stayed on for two more tackles and it was no good.”.
Acting Dragons coach Steve Price was cautious about the diagnosis, saying: “There’s no outcome yet. We’ll wait until we get back to Sydney, get the scans … it’s a bit clouded.”
Yet again yesterday, the joint held their opponents scoreless in a second half – as it had throughout last year’s finals series. Things started poorly with a fumble that allowed Wigan centre George Carmont to post the first try after just two minutes.
But the other Wigan centre, Martin Gleeson, lasted less than half a game after braving a hamstring injury. His mistake preceded the first of man
-of-the-match Brett Morris’ two touchdowns, which saw him display remarkable finishing powers with footwork, speed and strength.
When St George Illawarra centre Matt Cooper scored off Ben Hornby’s pass not long after, it looked like the NRL premiers were about to put their feet down. But a bad pass that made most of the 24,268 crowd groan landed fortuitously in the arms of Carmont and he raced away from near halfway to give his side the lead, before Darius Boyd’s ball handed Morris his second.
Fullback Sam Tomkins then edging the home side ahead by a point with a field goal on the stroke of halftime.
“It was a bit like the grand final – we came in here and talked about doing what we do best,” said back rower Ben Creagh. “We fixed it in the second half.”
Five-eighth Jamie Soward converted the King try and added a 70th minute field goal to make it two titles in five months for a club that waited 12 years for its first. Desperate defence was needed during the tense closing stages, with the home side receiving several penalties deep in enemy territory.
It’s the third consecutive WCC success by an Australian club. Aside from King, Morris (hip) may be in doubt for the round one appointment with Gold Coast.
Was this performance enough to suggest the Dragons will be among the leaders when King is fit once more? “I think they’re going to be favourites again,” said Wigan winger Amos Roberts. “They’re hard t break down. You think you’ve got them on the ropes – they just frustrate teams.”
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 21 (B Morris 2 M Cooper C King tries J Soward 2 goals field goal) bt WIGAN 15 (G Carmont 2 tries P Deacon 3 goals S Tomkins field goal) at DW Stadium. Referee: Thierry Alibert. Crowd: 24,268.
Filed for: FAIRFAX