By Jack Books and Jake Bull
The St George Illawarra Dragons Junior Representative teams all remained undefeated against their respective opposition in pre-season fixtures over the weekend.
The Illawarra Steelers Harold Matthews (U16) and SG Ball (U18) sides were both successful against Sydney Roosters at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday.
In hot conditions that troubled both sides, both age-groups were able to walk away from their respective games, a good preparation for the when the season proper begins in three weeks time.
First onto the field were the Harold Matthews teams.
In a change to the normal trial arrangements, they were forced to play three 25 minute periods instead of the usual 30 minute periods.
This did not affect the home side who skipped out to a two try lead early in the game before the Roosters scored to end the first stanza.
It was the Roosters who started the better of the two sides in the second period as a try under the posts got them on their way.
This motivated Illawarra who regained their lead and extended it before the final break.
The last stanza was all the Steelers who adapted better to the conditions.
With no conversions on offer in this trial, four more tries in the last period saw Illawarra come away with a 32-8 victory.
Next on the field were the SG Ball teams and in almost a mirror image to the first game, Steelers scored first.
However, midway through the first stage of the game the Roosters found the tryline before a try under the posts by the home side gave them the lead heading into the break.
Again the Roosters started strongly in the middle period as back-to-back tries from the visitors had the Steelers reeling before a try out wide from the home team meant that the game was evenly matched heading into the last stanza.
After trading tries early in the last, two consecutive tries for Illawarra but the game to bed before a consolation try right on full-time for the Roosters made the game close.
Steelers won the game 24-20.
The St George Dragons respective Harold Matthews and SG Ball teams travelled to face the North Sydney Bears at TG Milner Field, Eastwood on Saturday.
The Dragons Harold Matthews team similarly played three 25 minute thirds and were out first in similar hot temperatures.
The Dragons quickly put the pressure on the Bears, playing inside there 20 after kick-off.
However, a strong Bears defence kept the Dragons out throughout the half.
While there was some excellent football from the Dragons, including a spectacular charge down from Hussein Awada and a try saving tackle across 50m of field by Tristan Scott, the Bears quickly took the lead by the second half, 12-4 (Janel Petello scoring the only try).
The final third of gameplay saw the Dragons maintain the pressure and exploit the mistakes made by Bears, including several knock-ons and penalties, leading to tries from Te-Ahura McLean-Young and Joshua Powell.
A late try from the Bears pushed them ahead, with a win insight.
However, a last second try from Peter Polutele pushed the Dragons into a 16-16 draw.
The SG Ball squad kicked off soon thereafter and quickly took the lead with a try from Blake English in the opening minutes of the game.
The Dragons maintained a strong presence in the Bears’ half and a second try followed in the 25th minute by Alex Ta’ale.
The Dragons continued to play fast football, leading to several mistakes and allowing the Bears a last second try.
The Dragons managed to hold onto their lead throughout the second and final third. Daniel Stojanovski scoring two tries and Ben Cassell scoring a third lifted the Dragons lead to 20-4.
Despite an effective counter-attack, the Dragons held the Bears out of there 20. Successive tries from Hussein Kansou, Jai Doolan and Lachlan Hughes put the Dragons ahead before a Bears try on the buzzer ended the game with a Dragons 32-8 win.