The St George Dragons Junior Representative teams were unable to secure victory against the Western Sydney Academy of Sport at WIN Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Saturday.
While the SG Ball (U18) side was able to register their first competition point with a draw, they will be disappointed with the surrender of their 18-point lead; conversely, the Harold Matthews (U16) outfit suffered their second heavy defeat in a row, despite showing some good signs in the first half.
Earning a penalty in the opening set of the game, the Dragons gave themselves a good start in the SG Ball – the number 7 running a good line to score in the right corner before the opposition had touched the football.
After a forced drop out and dominating possession, the St George prop was sent over with a good pass to beat two men – the try converted once again for a 12-0 scoreline – and when the hooker reached out to score a short time later, the home side lead 18-0 after 18 minutes.
In Western Sydney’s following set, however, the second-rower was able to run 30m downfield from a good cut-out ball, WSAS number 14 Mark Griffins taking advantage of broken play to score the team’s first in the left corner a play later.
The run of tries continued after the resulting Dragons’ kickoff found touch; a perfectly-weighted chip kick finding St George number 20 to re-establish their 18-point lead.
Tension was high when a WSAS winger was dragged in goal after being held and the resulting confrontation appeared to kick the visitors into gear – two back-to-back penalties marching them downfield before number 17 barged over and begun their eventual comeback.
Two dangerous tackles in the shadows of halftime would fire both teams up even further, setting the stage for a physical second stanza as the Dragons lead 24 points to 12.
Living up to expectation, a physical and scoreless 13-minute period was ended as Griffins once again exploited a tired Dragons’ defence in the corner.
Noting the poor body language of the Junior Dragons, Western Sydney brought scores level with 15 minutes remaining with a dart from dummy half.
After an error-filled ten minutes from both sides, St George prop Topiese Taufa scored his second of the afternoon, which was converted to open up a six-point lead with four minutes remaining; in the 68th minute, however, WSAS centre Mark Griffins completed his hat trick, converted from out wide to close the gap once again.
Given just one play from the kick off, scores remained 30-all as both sides got away with a point.
Earlier, the St George Harold Matthews side looked to have improved significantly from their Round 4 52-12 defeat, but costly errors and a failure to capitalise on strong field position saw Western Sydney muscle them out of the game.
The Dragons looked strong in defence and attack in the opening 15 minutes, and two identical cross-field grubbers for the right winger came close to bringing points, but errors and penalties at crucial moments kept them from capitalising on some early momentum.
This was brought to light in the 16th minute, when a Dragons set play saw them pressing for a try in the left corner; a wayward pass and fumble backwards, however, saw the WSAS right centre pick it up and run 70 metres to score an embarrassing first try of the day.
After rebuilding pressure and relinquishing chances multiple times, the Dragons began to look tired late in the first half – a simple tackle bust and line break sending the halfback under the posts and the visitors into the sheds leading 12-0.
Some significant line pressure early in the second period proved too much for St George as they fell to an 18-point lead and when Western Sydney number 23 reached out from a 3-man tackle to score again in the 44th minute, the home side’s frustration resulted in an in-goal conflict.
The Dragons wouldn’t go down without a fight, however, and an innovative short kickoff and line break brought their first try in the right corner.
The success only lasted until the resulting kickoff was dropped, after which a WSAS second-rower busted through to score under the posts.
While the St George juniors’ prop managed a four-pointer of his own with 5 minutes remaining, the side’s morning was summed up in their final possession of the game: looking to score a third in the right corner, a one-on-one rake put the WSAS five-eighth in open space as he ran 80 metres to secure a 34-10 victory.
The SG Ball Dragons will regret the on-field animosity with their opposition as it seemed to motivate WSAS to an 18-point comeback.
Meanwhile, the Under 16s will consider their matchup a missed opportunity, earning no points from a mostly solid first-half display.
With just four weeks of regular competition left, both age groups will need to win their remaining matches to be a hope of narrowly making the finals.
That must begin next Saturday, when the teams travel to Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan to take on the Canberra Raiders at 12:30pm (Harold Matthews) and 2pm (SG Ball) in Round 6.