By Jake Bull and Neil Lovett
The St George Illawarra Dragons Junior Representative teams completed their respective first set of pre-season fixtures with mixed results over the weekend.
The Illawarra Steelers Junior Representative teams tackled the Canberra Raiders at Workers Arena, Goulburn on Saturday.
Both Harold Matthews (U16) and SG Ball (U18) had perfect conditions for the game with a strong wind being the only difficult condition to contend with.
After a slight delay for kick-off, the Harold Matthew sides were first onto the field.
With it being a trial and both sides still yet to decide on their final squads, the games were split into three periods with the first two periods two new sides playing before a mixture of the two contested the last period.
It was the Steelers who started most brightly after the dummy-half burrowed over from close range after an error by the Raiders close to their own line.
It was end to end in the first period with both sides showing good signs despite it being early in pre-season, however three consecutive tries for the Raiders saw them go into the first break with the lead.
The second stanza was a little tighter as only two tries were scored, one for each side. The Steelers scored through their lock after he went over under the posts.
In the final period, the Raiders showed that they had already played a pre-season game as they ran away with three more tries. The Steelers did score one more time, putting the ball down out wide after going through the hands.
With the first game being delayed it meant that the SG Ball teams were more than ready to go when the game kicked off.
In a similar fashion to the earlier game, the Steelers scored first. A great short ball found the centre out wide for him to score.
It was back-to-back tries for the visitors shortly after when the halfback sliced through a gap and ran 20 metres to find the try line.
In the remaining part of the first period both sides had their chances with the Raiders scoring two tries and the Steelers finding the line themselves two more times including a try from an intercept which saw the Steelers player run 80 metres to score under the posts.
In the second stanza, the Steelers began to extend their lead with two more tries. However, the Raiders would not go away and found the try line on a couple of occasions themselves to remain in the game.
With the Steelers leading by three tries heading into the last period it seemed that the side was comfortable enough to close out the game. This would not be the case. The Raiders match fitness shone through as three tries for them led to the game finishing in a draw.
The St George Dragons Junior Representative teams challenged the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at Norford Park, Sefton on the same day.
Whilst game scores were not recorded for both the Harold Matthews (U16) and SG Ball (U18) matches, both are expected to be competitive once the season proper commences in February.
Both Graeme Wynn (Harold Matthews Coach) and Brad Liggins (SG Ball Coach) agreed that the trial proved to be a worthwhile tool to assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of their players.
“There were some promising signs today, and some kids really stood up to show us what they are capable of,” said Liggins.
“These trials were not so much about team strengths as they were about individual player assessments.
Both Graeme and I will review our match DVDs, and probably reduce our squad numbers by a few later this week.”
The players remaining in all four Dragons Junior Rep teams will break for Christmas at the end of this week’s training, and will resume on Monday, January 5 2015.
They will then play a further three trials throughout January before commencing the competition matches on Saturday, February 14.