The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 26-18 by the New Zealand Warriors at Westpac Stadium, Wellington on Saturday.
The Young Dragons notched four tries in the loss but it proved not enough to overcome their trans-Tasman rivals and clinch a further two vital competition points.
Head Coach Ben Hornby had made several personnel changes to the line-up announced midweek with centres Topiese Taufa and Izaac Thompson both omitted from the line-up.
Dragons winger Dee Jay Harris and second-rower Ryan James both shifted into the vacated three-quarters positions, allowing Leigh Higgins and Jay Gallagher to start on the flank and back-row respectively.
The movement of players seemed to be a masterstroke when the visitors scored the opening try of the encounter through Higgins in the eighth minute of play.
Unfortunately, this four-pointer only seemed to spur the hosts into action with four unanswered tries to round-out the stanza.
Warriors centre Junior Pauga was the first to scribe his name onto the score sheet through sheer speed in the 13th minute before following suit with his second of the match six minutes later.
Warriors team mate Ofahiki Ogden also managed to bank a try of his own in between the three-quarters’ double efforts while fellow centre Semisi Tyrell’s hard work made it 16-4.
The Dragons struck first in the second half with a great backline movement seeing winger Dee Jay Harris cross in the corner in the 44th minute.
However, the Warriors further extended their lead just two minutes later through winger Levi McBirney.
Warriors five-eighth Brad Abbey converted to make it 22-10.
The home side again exposed the visitors’ right hand edge defence when Tyrell crossed again for his second in the 53rd minute.
Dragons prop Jacob Host and winger Tom Carr both scored late tries for the Dragons in the 63rd and 79th minutes but it was not enough.
Dragons centre Ryan James converted one of his two attempts at the tee to make it 26-18.
St George Illawarra Dragons 18. Tries: Higgins, Harris, Host, Carr. Goal: James (1/4).
New Zealand Warriors 26. Tries: Pauga (2), Tyrell (2), Ogden, McBirney. Goal: Abbey (1/6).