Ben Hunt inspires St George Illawarra Dragons to Canterbury Bulldogs rout

Corey Norman has kicked two match-winning field goals and a Hunt-inspired 40-4 rout of the Bulldogs at Netstrata Jubilee Oval on Sunday powered the Dragons into the top eight for the first time this season.

They desperately want Widdop back at the end of the year, but where does he fit?

And reading the State of Origin tea leaves, who says Hunt won’t be Queensland’s No.9 in a few weeks time even if he would be reluctant to spend much time there in the Red V?

Standout: Ben Hunt starred for the Dragons.Credit:AAP

He will probably be lining up against clubmates Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell, who were immense in a one-sided contest which made a mockery of the Bulldogs’ 38-0 end-of-season win at the same ground last year.

It means the debate over St George Illawarra’s spine experiment in the opening weeks seems an eternity ago as they blasted to an 18-point lead at the half-time break. Life after Widdop, who will exit for the English Super League at the end of the season, doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Despite losing Widdop and Korbin Sims to long-term injuries and missing Frizell for two weeks, the Red V look every bit the top four challengers many predicted them to be.

Near the end of it, Hunt pounced on a loose Josh Jackson offload, toed through for himself to score and then in celebration booted the ball so far it almost landed in Jubilee Avenue. At the death, Norman even had time to pirouette in the middle of a play before flicking for Hunt to bag a second.

It was nothing less than he deserved.

He had earlier rifled a ball to set up Euan Aitken’s first try, then mugged Rhyse Martin deep in the Dragons’ half before running 60 metres. On the next play, his half partner Norman found the other centre Tim Lafai and the Dragons were humming.

Mikaele Ravalawa scored when he seemingly had no right to and the contest was almost as good as over before oranges as Jordan Pereira also ensured the Dragons’ entire back five bar the dangerous Matt Dufty were on the scoresheet.

Reimis Smith bagged a late consolation for the Bulldogs, but it was barely that. They might have stretched unbeaten Melbourne last week, but the NRL is unforgiving. And so are the Dragons with Hunt at the wheel.

St George Illawarra Dragons 40 (Ben Hunt 2, Euan Aitken, Tim Lafai, Mikaele Ravalawa, Jordan Pereira, Zac Lomax tries; Lafai 5, Lomax goals) defeated Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 4 (Reimis Smith try) at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium. Referees: Ashley Klein, Gerard Sutton. Crowd: 13,409.

Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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