The St George Illawarra Dragons were 8-6 winners over the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the SCG on Sunday.
The Red-and-Whites scored only the one try courtesy of winger Jason Nightingale but this, coupled with co-captain Gareth Widdop’s two penalty goals, was enough for victory.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had been forced to make one change to the line-up announced midweek after halfback Benji Marshall was omitted from the team sheet due to a hamstring injury.
Dragons utility Josh McCrone was the preferred choice for the veteran halfback and made his club-debut partnering Widdop in the halves.
Additionally, prop Jack de Belin was named as lock-forward in a straight swap with Mike Cooper who had reverted to the interchange to join co-captain Ben Creagh, hooker Siliva Havili and second-rower Will Matthews.
The home side had entered the match-up at the historic venue in search of their first victory and had gotten off to a promising start seven minutes in when Widdop converted a penalty goal.
Unfortunately, a lapse in defence by the hosts was all the visitors needed to respond and they did just that through winger Alex Johnston in the 12th minute.
Rabbitohs centre Bryson Goodwin’s conversion soon after then made it 6-2.
Dragons winger Jason Nightingale was making his 200th first-grade appearance for his childhood club in the sodden conditions and commemorated it with a deft-defying airborne equaliser in the 23rd minute.
The hosts had been applying pressure on their opponents in the build-up play and ultimately got themselves into an advantageous position to allow Widdop to boot to the leaping local Renown United junior.
The hosts reclaimed their lead on the halfhour mark when Widdop converted his second penalty goal of the soggy encounter.
Both teams had been committed to finding further points when second-half play resumed but the physicality shown by one another meant the stanza in question remained scoreless.
St George Illawarra Dragons 8. Tries: Nightingale. Goals: Widdop (0/1). Penalty Goal: Widdop (2/2).
South Sydney Rabbitohs 6. Tries: Johnston. Goals: Goodwin (1/1).