The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 16-12 by the Parramatta Eels at Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta on Saturday.
The Red-and-Whites scored only the two tries in the encounter courtesy of centre Euan Aitken and winger Eto Nabuli.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had made several changes to the line-up announced midweek with second-rower Joel Thompson returning to the run-on side after overcoming his recent knee injury, replacing Will Matthews, who reverted to the interchange bench.
The Dragons NSW Country Origin representative was joined by winger Eto Nabuli, who replaced Jason Nightingale on the flank after the latter failed to overcome a minor ankle strain suffered against the Sydney Roosters last round.
Furthermore, Heath L'Estrange was elevated to starting hooker in lieu of Mitch Rein who was serving a one-game suspension whilst fellow hooker Craig Garvey was a late inclusion on the bench, taking the spot of prop Jack de Belin, who had been omitted due to an infection.
The Dragons had been defeated 36-0 by their opposition in last season’s corresponding fixture but made sure not to be held scoreless this time around when centre Euan Aitken scored in only the second minute.
The Merimbula-Pambula Bulldogs junior was been the beneficiary of a neat play which commenced with halfback Benji Marshall’s neat chip-kick to the right for winger Eto Nabuli to run on to.
From there, the Fijian international parried the ball back to the emerging three-quarter who found space available to cross the stipe.
Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop converted shortly thereafter to make it 6-0.
The advantage was short lived however when some sloppy play eventuated in Eels winger Semi Radradra etching his name on to the scoresheet moments later.
Eels halfback Chris Sandow converted to make it 6-all.
The visitors were rewarded a penalty just after halftime following a high tackle placed on hooker Craig Garvey.
Widdop made no mistake at the tee to makw it 8-6.
The hosts reclaimed the lead following the halftime break when Radradra out-thwarted Dragons fullback Josh Dugan to the ball adjacent to the left-hand corner post in the 43rd minute.
Sandow converted again to make it 12-8.
The Dragons suffered a further setback minutes later when second-rower Joel Thompson was forced off the field with a hamstring strain.
The Eels took full advantage of their newfound momentum with Radradra notching his hat trick on the hour mark.
The visitors rallied through and found the gap in the Eels defence they had been searching for, allowing winger Eto Nabuli to score in the 66th minute.
However, despite their best efforts to build off the Fiji international’s four-pointer, the visitors were ultimately unable to cross for a third time to level the game.
St George Illawarra Dragons 12. Tries: Aitken, Nabuli. Goals: Widdop (1/2). Penalty Goal: Widdop (1/1).
Parramatta Eels 16. Tries: Radradra (3). Goals: Sandow (2/3).