Lomax shines on a wing with some flair in Dragons’ win over Tigers as Bunker hauls off Bird but spares Klemmer … twice


For someone who insists he’s a centre, Zac Lomax is a top-quality winger. 

He is set to cost himself hundreds of thousands of dollars by engineering an early release from his St George Illawarra contract so he can play centre at Parramatta next year but there is mounting evidence to suggest Lomax belongs on the wing. 

Lomax was a standout for St George Illawarra at Campbelltown on Sunday as the visitors dominated Wests Tigers on the way to their 24-12 victory. 

The Dragons improved their record to a respectable 3-3 for a team that was predicted to be wooden spoon contenders in the pre-season while the Tigers have tumbled to back-to-back defeats after it looked like they were heading on an upward trajectory after upsetting Cronulla and Parramatta. 

Bunker banishes Bird but spares Klemmer … twice

Tigers veteran David Klemmer was lucky to stay on the field midway through the second half when he smashed Kyle Flanagan with a high shot which looked like direct and forceful contact to the head which should have resulted in a stint in the sin bin.

“That’s astounding,” said Michael Ennis on Fox League after Klemmer was only placed on report after the Bunker reviewed the impact.

Flanagan bounced to his feet and jokingly pointed to the sheds for Klemmer but referee Grant Atkins decided not to do so.

Klemmer was placed on report again with six minutes remaining after another high tackle on Lomax from a quick 20-metre tap but even though players from both teams rushed in for a minor melee, the veteran prop was again allowed to stay on the field.

Zac Lomax scores the first try. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Dragons centre Jack Bird was controversially ruled out of the contest late in the first half when the independent doctor in the Bunker said he had suffered a category-one concussion. 

The back of his head hit the turf with a thud in the 36th minute when he tried to make a tackle on Tigers winger Junior Tupou.

Bird returned to the defensive line but was told he needed to go off after the next play by referee Grant Atkins. 

The Dragons appealed the decision once the word came through from the Bunker that Bird would play no further part in the contest but their appeal fell on deaf ears. 

Zac revved up to the max

Lomax was bobbing up everywhere in attack for St George Illawarra just like prolific try-scorer Nathan Blacklock used to do in the No.2 jersey a couple of decades ago.

He was on the end of a right-edge raid in just the fourth minute, touching down in the corner after Bird sent him flying to the stripe.

The Tigers hit back when Stefano Utoikamanu surged past non-existent defence from an Api Koroisau no-look pass.

Koroisau didn’t know where to look after his conversion attempt from close range bounced off the upright – one of the touch judges thought it rebounded over the crossbar but the other waved it away, which the Bunker confirmed was the correct call. 

What a catch from Lomax!

???? Watch #NRLTigersDragons on ch.502 or stream on Kayo: https://t.co/B1ijnGXtqA
BLOG https://t.co/UsTp0rSywM
???? MATCH CENTRE https://t.co/3g9feUo8Rw pic.twitter.com/uSXnPJz0Sb

— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 14, 2024

He booted a penalty goal from a similar spot soon after when Bud Sullivan was hit high by his former Steelers junior teammate Tyrell Sloan from a scrum but the Dragons regained the lead when a Tom Eisenhuth offload put Ben Hunt into space and Bird backed up for a 10-6 lead.

Lomax was at it again late in the first half when he latched onto a Hunt bomb by outleaping Tigers fullback Jahream Bula and even though he could have fallen over the line himself, the 24-year-old gifted the four-pointer to Flanagan. 

Fox League analyst Greg Alexander said Lomax was in career-best form despite the ongoing distractions of his protracted contract negotiations with the Dragons and haggling over his likely Eels deal.

His purple patch continued early in the second half when he reeled in another high kick in spectacular fashion and spiralled a pass out wide for Hunt to potentially score but the skipper fumbled the chance.

“He’s got superglue in his hands, he can’t drop anything,” said Ennis on the Fox League call.

Tigers forward Isaiah Papalii needed an adhesive of some sort when he tried to reel in a Sullivan kick in a play which led to a Charlie Staines try which was scrubbed off by Atkins with confirmation from the Bunker. 

The Dragons extended their advantage to 18-6 after the Klemmer high shot on Flanagan and they stormed further ahead a few minutes later when Moses Suli stood in a tackle to give Jaydn Su’A a short path to the try line.

Sullivan sent Asu Kepaoa through a gap to give the Tigers the slightest of hopes, trailing by 12 with eight minutes left, but they made no further inroads.

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Tigers rediscover bad old habits

Wests Tigers are definitely better than the past couple of years when they collected back-to-back wooden spoons but anyone thinking they could be finals contenders in 2024 need to pump the brakes.

Tigers and Magpies fans came out of the woodwork recently when Benji Marshall’s new-look side thrashed the Sharks and then got the better of Parramatta. 

They have a more settled line-up this year with Aidan Sezer providing game management from halfback and Justin Olam adding experience and a defensive presence in the centres.

Api with the no look pass to Utoikamanu ????

???? Watch #NRLTigersDragons on ch.502 or stream on Kayo: https://t.co/B1ijnGXtqA
BLOG https://t.co/UsTp0rSywM
???? MATCH CENTRE https://t.co/3g9feUo8Rw pic.twitter.com/tHDdMhAR6c

— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 14, 2024

But they are still prone to basic errors and drifting in and out of contests. 

The Tigers were terrible in the first half and better in the second but they did not show the same level of intensity that their opponents in red displayed.

A trip to Bathurst next Saturday to face a rested Panthers team with the premiers coming off the bye awaits Wests as they try to recapture the momentum they had generated just a few weeks ago.

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