Jeremy Latimore had to hitch a ride on the back of a motorbike and Matt Dufty arrived just before the warm-up after a fatal accident in Wollongong caused chaos but the pair played key roles in St George Illawarra's 22-14 defeat of North Queensland at WIN Stadium.
Dufty scored a try and had a hand in another as St George Illawarra took advantage of the loss of Cowboys captain Michael Morgan with concussion and a revamped use of the interchange by coach Paul McGregor.
The Cowboys were seething about the 45th minute tackle by Tariq Sims which forced Morgan from the field but match officials did not believe there was anything wrong with it and ordered a scrum feed to the Dragons for a forward pass.
Latimore, who was playing his 50th match for the club, was kept on the bench until the final 24 minutes and NSW Origin forwards Tyson Frizell and Paul Vaughan returned to the match a few minutes later after a long break.
Vaughan ran 167 metres in his two stints totalling 46 minutes, while Latimore carried the ball for 92 metres in eight runs as the Dragons maintained their place just one win outside the top eight, despite winning just two of their last eight matches.
The Dragons had the worst possible preparation as players and coaching staff arrived late after a 10-vehicle truck and car accident, in which two people died and nine were injured, closed the M1 Princes Motorway near Wollongong in both directions.
Interchange forward Jeremy Latimore abandoned his car on the side of the road and hitched a ride on the back of a motorbike to get to WIN Stadium on time, while Dufty only arrived 25 minutes before kick-off.
Match: Dragons v Cowboys
Round 15 -
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
- LIVE PASS
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor was affected by the traffic chaos, which gridlocked all roads around Wollongong, and members of the Fox Sports and ABC radio commentary teams only arrived with minutes to spare after spending up to three hours driving from Sydney.
Referee Henry Perenera got to WIN Stadium 30 minutes before kick-off after driving from Parramatta.
The traffic chaos also impacted significantly on the crowd, with the Dragons selling more tickets for the match than the 7,008 fans in attendance.
Those who were there early were unlikely to have been aware of Dufty's battle to get to the ground when he fumbled a bomb by Jake Clifford, who regathered only to be stripped by Fiji winger Mikaele Ravalawa in a two-man tackle.
Jordan Kahu posted the first points of the match with the 11th minute penalty goal and centre Tom Opacic put the Cowboys further ahead six minutes later after a cut out pass from Morgan to winger Kyle Feldt, who passed inside for his right edge partner.
Dufty appeared to have scored in the 23rd minute but the try was disallowed after video replays showed he had put his left boot on the touchline and he was forced to suffer the ignominy of a 12-point turnaround following an in-goal fumble at the opposite end.
With North Queensland winning the scrum near the Dragons line, new fullback signing Josh Drinkwater showed his speed to slice between Corey Norman and Lachlan Maranta to score in the 30th minute.
However, the Cowboys lead was reduced to 10-6 before half-time when Ravalawa outsprinted wing opposite Enari Tuala to pick up a Ben Hunt grubber into space and raced around under the uprights to score in the 38th minute.
Hunt puts it on a platter for Ravalawa
The home side dominated the second half, with a hit by Sims on Morgan proving to be a turning point as the North Queensland playmaker's pass travelled forward and he was forced from the field in the 45th minute.
Dufty scored four minutes later after sprinting through the defence to catch a Norman kick in the Cowboys in goal and put St George Illawarra ahead for the first time in the match.
McGregor's use of the interchange ensured the Dragons powered home, with Dufty putting centre Euan Aitken over in the 69th minute and second-rower Jacob Host scoring four minutes later.