NRL Auckland Nines Fixture 1
The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 28-20 by the Canberra Raiders at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday.
The Dragons managed three tries in the opening encounter of their Piha Pool campaign but it was not enough for the points.
Head Coach Paul McGregor opted for a mixture of experience and youth for the encounter which included gifting off-season signings Kurt Mann, Dunamis Lui, Tim Lafai, Josh McCrone and Sebastine Ikahihifo their first respective hit-outs with their new teammates.
The Dragons were forced to drop out twice early in the game but recovered both times and absorbed the early pressure, before scoring first as winger Kiti Glymin, who latched onto a cross field kick on the touch line, produced a perfect ball back inside for Kalifa Faifai Loa to touch down.
Jordan Rapana hit straight back from Canberra when he collected a floating pass out wide from Kurt Baptiste, but a missed conversion left them down 6-4 at half time.
Brenko Lee raced through a gap early in the second half to set the stage for Lachie Croker to put Luke Bateman over with an inside pass and earn the lead for the first time.
Lee then went over himself when he pushed up to intercept a pass from former Raiders teammate Josh McCrone and stroll easily to the line for a bonus zone try.
A beautiful inside ball from Jack De Belin put Kurt Mann through a tiny gap to run away for a long-range strike and level up at 13-all with a bonus zone try of his own.
New Raiders recruit Kato Ottio reclaimed the lead with a strong effort from short range before Dragons rookie Matt Dufty streaked away for a long-range bonus zone try.
Length of the field efforts were clearly in vogue as Sam Williams returned fire with a long range run of his own to put Lachie Croker over before some marvellous work from Ottio and Jarrod Croker combined to set up Bateman's second to cap a 28-20 win.
St George Illawarra Dragons 20. Tries: Faifai Loa, Mann, Dufty.
Canberra Raiders 28. Tries: Bateman (2), Rapana, Lee, Ottio, L Croker.
1. Josh Dugan (c)
5. Kurt Mann
6. Drew Hutchison
8. Dunamis Lui
9. Mitch Rein
13. Jack de Belin
14. Yaw Kiti Glymin
15. Kalifa Faifai Loa
19. Tyrone McCarthy
3. Euan Aitken
4. Tim Lafai
7. Josh McCrone
16. Matt Dufty
17. Sebastine Ikahihifo