The St George Illawarra Dragons have defeated the Manly Sea Eagles 25-22 in the second match of the Rangitoto Pool clash of the Auckland Nines at Eden Park.
The Dragons raced out to a 15-0 lead, but the Sea Eagles fought back to take the lead just two minutes from full-time before Fijian Flyer Eto Nabuli crossed in the corner to snatch victory for the Dragons in the final seconds of the match.
An interchange error that saw the Dragon field just seven players at one stage throughout the match almost cost the Club their first victory of the season but a much improved performance from game one has the Dragons still in contention to progress beyond the group stage.
Dragons fullback Josh Dugan opened the scoring in a movement he started when he broke through the Sea Eagles defence in centerfield. Dugan found Shannon Crook who passed to Jason Nightingale who set Eto Nabuli away down the sideline before linking up again with Dugan who raced in to open the scoring with a bonus try. Dugan converted his own try to give the Dragons the early 7-0 lead.
A Manly error gifted possession back to the Dragons and at the end of the set, Crook kicked cross-field straight into the arms of Joel Thompson who scored in the corner to extend the lead, 11-0.
It was Crook again who had a hand in the try when he put a kick in behind that saw Kiti Glymin win the race and score out wide to further the lead, 15-0.
Manly opened their account with a try to Peta Hiku just before half-time who was on the end of a wide flat pass from Daly Cherry-Evans with the Dragons taking the 15-4 lead into the break.
The Dragons opened scoring straight away in the second half with a shift to the left hand side of the field that allowed Nabuli to stroll over in the corner to extend the lead by an extra four points, 19-4.
Manly hit back with three consecutive tries, the first a long range try to Tom Trbojevic, the second to Jayden Hodges who barged his way over and the third was from a grubber kick that was dived on by Dunamis Lui to snatch the lead for Manly 21-19 with just two minutes left to play.
A Benji Marshall kick found Nabuli out wide in the dying seconds who caught the ball in the air and spun around the Sea Eagles defender to place the ball down in the corner with one hand. Marshall converted to seal the victory for the Dragons, 25-21.
The Dragons final pool match is against the Parramatta Eels at 11:10am (NZ time – 9:10am AEST tomorrow, Sunday, February 1, the opening match of the day.
Dragons 25 defeated Sea Eagles 21.
Dragons Tries: Dugan, Thompson, Glymin, Nabuli 2
Goals: Dugan, Marshall