The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 18-14 by the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the annual Charity Shield fixture at ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park on Saturday.
The Red-and-Whites scored three tries in the annual fixture courtesy of Kurt Mann, Siliva Havili and Euan Aitken but it was not enough to retain the pre-season silverware.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had made only the one change to the 25-man line-up announced midweek with Illawarra Cutters halfback Shaun Nona named on the extended interchange in lieu of National Youth Competition team lock Hame Sele.
Unfortunately, the Dragons found themselves trailing early on after Rabbitohs captain John Sutton scored the opening four-pointer in the fifth minute of play.
Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook added the extras to make it 6-0.
The early setback seemingly did not phase the Dragons who responded aptly with a touch of acrobatics to level proceedings moments later.
Dragons winger Jason Nightingale had proved the man of the moment in an impromptu attacking display which saw the flanker throw a well-timed somersaulting back pass inside the goal area for fullback Kurt Mann to ground.
Disappointingly, the Red-and-Whites had later squandered the opportunity to seize the lead six minutes from the interval when centre Euan Aitken fell just short of the stripe.
Fortunately, the Dragons made up for lost time following the break and went ahead through hooker Siliva Havili in the 52nd minute.
Dragons halfback Benji Marshall made no mistake from the tee shortly thereafter to make it 10-6.
The only issue was the opposition were not going to give-up so easily and soon levelled proceedings through the blistering pace of Kirisome Auva’a moments later.
Cook then added the extras once again to reclaim his team’s lead.
The Rabbitohs then inflicted a further blow twelve minutes out from time when utility Ed Murphy scribed his name on to the scoresheet and made it 16-10.
Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker then created an eight-point buffer with his conversion.
Aitken salvaged a late try to claw back his team’s deficit to four points five minutes from time but it was not enough to spur on the Dragons to victory.
St George Illawarra Dragons 14. Tries: Mann, Havili, Aitken. Goals: Marshall (1/2), Hutchison (0/1).
South Sydney Rabbitohs 18. Tries: Sutton, Auva’a, Murphy. Goals: Cook (2/2), Walker (1/1).