The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 24-12 by the Gold Coast Titans at Eden Park, Auckland on Sunday.
The Dragons scored three tries including double by centre Euan Aitken but it was not enough to qualify from the Piha Pool.
Head Coach Paul McGregor opted to provide National Youth Competition centre Reuben Garrick his first start of the tournament while also recalling prop Sebastine Ikahihifo to the starting team.
A long-range run from Greg Leleisiuao got the Titans close before a quality solo try from Chris McQueen opened the scoring.
Euan Aitken made it look far too easy popping over from dummy-half to level up before the impressive Agnatius Paasi proved impossible to stop close to the Dragons line to reclaim the advantage 8-4 at half-time.
A long-range effort from Leleisiuao stretched the lead early in the second before Anthony Don was on hand to collect a Dan Mortimer short kick and gallop 30 metres to make it 20-4.
An Ash Taylor cut-out handed McQueen – lurking around in his old position on the wing – a second try for the match.
Kurt Mann and Aitken bagged late consolation tries but couldn't avert a 24-12 loss.
St George Illawarra Dragons 12. Tries: Aitken (2), Mann.
Gold Coast Titans 24. Tries: McQueen (2), Paasi, Leleisiuao, Don.
1. Josh Dugan (c)
2. Reuben Garrick
3. Euan Aitken
6. Drew Hutchison
8. Dunamis Lui
9. Mitch Rein
12. Jake Marketo
16. Matt Dufty
17. Sebastine Ikahihifo
5. Kurt Mann
7. Josh McCrone
11. Jacob Host
15. Kalifa Faifai Loa
18. Jay Gallagher