The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 24-16 by the Brisbane Broncos in their Preliminary Final at ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park on Friday.
The Young Dragons scored three tries in the narrow encounter but it was not enough to progress to next week’s Grand Final.
Co-Head Coaches Ben Hornby and Dean Young had opted to standby their team named midweek with prop George Lolo starting in lieu of Vincent Stowers who reverted to the interchange.
The Young Dragons had run-out 58-18 victors over the Broncos when the two teams previously met in the penultimate round of the regular competition yet had ultimately finished two positions below their northern counterparts at season’s end.
However, the Red-and-Whites displayed a try-scoring clinic against Minor Premiers the Newcastle Knights to win 40-10 in the Qualifying Final to earn a well-earned bye round rest heading into this encounter.
The Dragons proved quickest off the mark when play commenced and seized an early lead courtesy of five-eighth Shannon Crook in the sixth minute
The Narellan Jets junior had been the beneficiary of winger Sitiveni Moceidreke’s inside offload following his blistering dash from the right flank.
Crook converted to make it 6-0.
The Red-and-Whites continued their momentum with a further try to second-rower Jack Bird in the 22nd minute.
Dragons halfback Adam Clune initiated the play wit h a quick pass right to pivot partner Crook who found the Berkeley Eagles junior out wide and unmarked.
Crook again converted to make it 12-0.
However, the Broncos rallied with centre Tom Opacic etching his name on the score sheet just ajar of the halfhour mark.
Broncos halfback Ashely Taylor converted to make it 12-6.
This was followed-up by Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue’s charge-and-barge over the white stripe adjacent to the posts five minutes from the interval.
Taylor again converted to level proceedings at 12-all.
Broncos utility Jayden Nikorima slotted a penalty goal to take a two-point lead heading into the break.
Both teams continued testing one-another’s defensive lines for weaknesses when play resumed with neither barging back an inch.
However, the trend eventually ended on the hour mark when Dragons centre Brent Anderson offloaded to Moceidreke on the wing to reprise the lead.
The celebrations were short-lived though with Broncos five-eighth Duncan Paia’aua grubber-kicking for captain Brett Greinke to collect and slide-over the stripe three minutes later.
Taylor converted to make it 20-16.
The Broncos though continued their attack and inflicted one final blow when Paia’aua found space to cross five minutes from time.
St George Illawarra Dragons 16. Tries: Crook, Bird, Moceidreke. Goals: Crook (2/3).
Brisbane Broncos 24. Tries: Opacic, Ofahengaue, Greinke, Paia’aua. Goals: Taylor (3/4). Penalty Goal: Nikorima (1/1).