The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 12-4 by the Melbourne Storm at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Monday.
The Red-and-Whites scored only the one try through winger Eto Nabuli, who crossed the white line during the second-half on his first-grade debut.
Head Coach Paul McGregor made no changes to the line-up announced midweek with local Hurstville United junior prop Rory O’Brien and Fijian international winger Eto Nabuli making their first-grade debuts.
Furthermore, new recruit Dane Nielsen and George Rose, both of whom previously played for the Storm, additionally made their Club debuts.
Despite the early fanfare to which all four players were welcomed, the venue was silenced when Storm winger Young Tonumaipea breached the host’s defensive line to cross the stripe in the sixth minute of play.
Storm captain Cameron Smith converted to make it 6-0.
The early set-back however did not faze the hosts who continued applying attacking pressure on the visitors for the remainder of the half.
Yet, despite a successful forty-twenty kick by halfback Benji Marshall and numerous forced repeat sets in the opposition’s half, the hosts were unable to capitalise on their hardwork and left scoreless at halftime.
Unfortunately, the stanza had been marred by the actions of Storm duo Jesse Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi during this period of play with both placed on report for on-field misdemeanours.
The Dragons were the quickest off the mark when second-half play resumed and managed to claw their way to within two-points courtesy of winger Eto Nabuli in the 29th minute.
The Fijian international, making his first-grade debut in front of family and friends alike, was the beneficiary of a smart Marshall grubber kick to the left edge and planted the ball with ease.
Just moments earlier, Storm lock Dale Finucane had been placed on report for a mistimed tackle on Jack de Belin.
Despite their third player on report, the visitors extended their lead through centre Will Chambers horizontal weaving across the stripe just shy of the hourmark.
Smith converted again to make it 12-4.
The Dragons were unable to cause any further attacking problems for the visitors despite Nabuli and winger Jason Nightingale’s threatening late runs down the flanks.
The loss was compounded by the departure of Dugan from the field eleven minutes from time due to an awkward landing on his left ankle.
The NSW Blues representative will undergo scans and be assessed by Dragons Medical Staff in the coming days to determine the extent of the injury.
St George Illawarra Dragons 4. Tries: Nabuli. Goals: Widdop (0/1).
Melbourne Storm 12. Tries: Tonumaipea, Chambers. Goals: Smith (2/2).