The St George Illawarra Dragons were 27-24 victors over the North Queensland Cowboys at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Saturday.
After an emotional ceremony commemorating the passing of St George Immortal Reg Gasnier, the Red-and-Whites celebrated with two valuable competition points highlighted by winger Jason Nightingale’s hat trick.
Gasnier was born and raised within the St George area and began his rugby league career with local club Renown United prior to beginning his career as a Dragon in 1959.
The local junior went on to score 127 tries in 125 games during his nine-year career, which saw him win six Premierships with the Club between 1960-65 as well as representative honours with New South Wales and Australia.
The Dragons, in celebration of the famous centre, chose to retire the No. 3 jersey, with Peter Mata’utia running onto the field wearing the number 14 on his back.
The Samoa international was joined on the field by returning prop Jack Stockwell for the encounter following his return from a foot injury.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys were the first to claim points as winger Antonio Winterstein dove over counterpart Nightingale in the fourth minute.
However, the home side responded in kind in an almost identical four-pointer to winger Charly Runciman five minutes later.
The hosts built on this momentum and found the white line again in the 15th minute as winger Nightingale beat two defenders to put his side in front by four points.
The Dragons further extended their points-advantage through fullback Adam Quinlan whom collected halfback Benji Marshall’s kick to score near the posts.
Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop converted to make it 14-4.
Yet the visitors managed to claw back the deficit through Winterstein’s second try of the encounter near the interval.
Cowboys fullback Matthew Wright converted to make it 14-10.
The visitors quickly equalised when second-half play commenced with second-rower Tariq Sims crossing the stripe in the 44th minute.
Wright converted to make it 16-14.
The Cowboys edged further in front again with a try to winger Curtis Rona taking the score to 20-14.
Fortunately, the Dragons were not going done without a fight and sent Nightingale over for his second of the night in the 58th minute.
Widdop converted to even the scores at 20-all.
The score remained locked until the 74th minute when a flying Nightingale flipped over the chalk for a hat trick.
Widdop converted to make it 26-20.
The English international added a field goal for good measure shortly after to make it 27-20.
The visitors scores a final consolatory try on the cusp of fulltime through second-rower Jason Taumalolo who barged over for the points.
St George Illawarra Dragons 27 defeated the North Queensland Cowboys 24.
St George Illawarra Dragons 27. Tries: Nightingale (3), Runciman, Quinlan. Goals: Widdop (3/5). Field Goal: Widdop (1/1).
North Queensland Cowboys 24. Tries Winterstein (2), Sims, Rona. Taumalolo Goals: Wright (2/5).