By Mary Maidiotis
The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 24-22 by the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday.
The Young Dragons scored four tries in the loss with a double going to winger Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga.
Head Coach Ben Hornby had made only cosmetic changes to the side named mid-week with Abraham Atallah starting in the hooker position in lieu of Josh Daley who shifted to the bench.
The first quarter was an even battle between the two sides, with the Dragons’ big opportunity coming in the 15th minute, as Ryan James made a line-break and flicked a pass to Izaac Thompson, who unfortunately landed just short of the line.
The Red-and-Whites were first over the line when Aufaga-Toomaga, in only his second outing, found himself under a perfectly-timed kick and scored in the corner in the 20th minute.
Dragons captain Adam Clune planted the ball to the left of the posts just five minutes later, with Aufaga-Toomaga easily slotting the ball over the black dot and putting the home-side 10-0 up.
The Sea Eagles opened their account ten minutes out from half-time, through winger Mitch Thomas who received a cut-out pass from fullback Tom Trbojevic and beat the defender to score in the corner.
The visitors were over again with five minutes remaining in the first-half, as Trbojevic scored courtesy of a bomb from halfback Nicholas Hynes.
Opposition hooker Hugh Pratt converted the try to lock the scores up at 10-all at the half-time break.
The Sea Eagles were first to score in the second forty through second-rower Liam Knight, with Pratt converting the try to put the visitors in front by six.
Aufaga-Toomaga bagged a double 18 minutes out from full-time, converting his own try and levelling scores for the second-time in the game.
The visitors responded four minutes later with a try in the corner courtesy of winger Lucas Price.
Sea Eagles halfback Hynes made a break with five minutes remaining before the final siren, scoring in the corner and extending the lead to 24-16.
Dragons winger Keelyn Tuuta-Edwards went over in the 79th minute giving the hosts hope of a late comeback.
The flanker converted the try to put his side within two points of the opposition but unfortunately the clock wound down before they had the chance to score again.
St George Illawarra Dragons 22. Tries: Aufaga-Toomaga (2), Clune, Tuuta-Edwards. Goals: Aufaga-Toomaga (3/4).
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 24. Tries: Thomas, Trbojevic, Knight, Price, Hynes. Goals: Pratt (2/5).