The St George Illawarra Dragons National Youth Competition team have advanced to the Preliminary Final with a 30-22 victory over the Minor Premiers Newcastle Knights at Allianz Stadium, Moore Park on Saturday.
In the opening NYC Final of the 2014 series, the young Dragons scored five tries to the Knights four including a double to Jack Bird who played at right centre today in the absence of Euan Aitken.
The Dragons opened the scoring in the eighth minute after winger Siti Moceidreke cleverly put a kick down the sideline, regathered and then flicked a pass out the back to five-eight Shannon Crook who kicked in-goal for his halves partner Adam Clune to dive in and score. Crook converted to give the young Dragons the early lead 6-0.
Addin Fonua-Blake successfully used his Captains Challenge to set-up the Dragons second try. Originally ruled to have lost the ball, Fonua-Blake had the decision changed to a strip and from the penalty the Dragons were on the attack and Jack Bird playing at right centre kicked in behind the defensive line for himself and he easily ran the race to the ball. Crook converted to extend the lead to 12-0.
The Knights hit-back in the 25th minute following a strong run from Tuiala Togiatasi who sliced through the Dragons defence and passed inside to his half-back Jaelen Feeney who crossed under the posts untouched. Bryce Donovan converted to bring the Minor Premiers back to within a converted try 12-6.
Unnecessary contact with the head of Fonua-Blake caused a scuffle just prior to half-time with the Dragons awarded a penalty. Crook converted to give the Dragons an eight point lead at the break 14-6.
The Knights started the second-half with strong intent and scored just six minutes after the break through winger Donovan who raced onto a kick from Knights fullback Jake Mamo. Donovan was unable to convert his own try, the Dragons lead cut to four points 14-10.
A mistake from the re-start saw the Dragons gifted possession 20m out and the Dragons quickly shifted the ball to the right and fullback Matt Dufty crashed over in the corner. Crook missed the conversation, the Dragons leading 18-10.
The Knights made it a two point game in the 54th minute when back rower Joseph Tapine showed great footwork and strength to score and Donovan converted making the score 18-16.
Bird did it all himself in the 60th minute collecting the ball at right centre and ran cross-field, stepping several defenders to cross 15m to the left of the uprights. Crook converted to give the young Dragons the eight point lead again.
The Minor Premiers didn't give up and hit back in the 69th minute when five-eight Brock Lamb put a kick in that richochet off Jay Gallagher straight back into the arm of Lamb to score. Donovan converted to bring the Knights back to within two points. The Dragons holding the narrow lead 24-22.
The Video Referee was called into play twice in the final minutes the Knights were denied firstly and then Dragons winger Isaac Thompson was awarded a try in the 79th after Crook dummied his way through the Knights defensive line and through a cut-out pass to the left that was touched by the Knights on route to Thompson who placed it down in the corner. Crook capped off a great afternoon converting from the sideline to kick the Dragons home 30-22.
The young Dragons now have the week off with today's victory advancing them straight into the Preliminary Final.
Dragons 30: Tries Clune, Bird 2, Dufty, Thompson Goals: Crook 4 Penalty Goal: Crook
Knights 22: Tries: Feeney, Donovan, Tapine, Lamb Goals: Donovan 3