The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 28-12 by the Penrith Panthers at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Sunday.
The Young Dragons scored only the two tries in the loss with both Matt Dufty and Luciano Leilua finding the line.
Head Coach Mat Head had made several changes to the line-up announced midweek following centre Izaac Thompson’s elevation to the Illawarra Cutters line-up.
Head opted to shift Paora Kemp into the vacated three-quarters role and welcomed back previously injured local Penshurst RSL junior Matt Dufty (knee) who slotted into the fullback position.
The Red-and-Whites had entered the encounter buoyed by their hard-fought 26-24 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs last round which had marked their first two-competition points of the season.
The home side had hoped to add to their haul and started in fine fashion with the returning Dufty etching his name onto the scoresheet.
Kemp converted the custodian’s efforts to make it 6-nil.
However, the visitors made short work of their opportunities and soon responded through fullback Dylan Edwards in the 25th minute.
Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary then converted to level proceedings.
The Panthers later seized the lead when they added a further try courtesy from second-rower Corey Waddell nine minutes later.
Cleary again converted to make it 12-6.
Fortunately, the home side entered the interval on level-pegging after second-rower Luciano Leilua notched his third try from three successive outings in the 37th minute.
Kemp then kicked to make it 12-all.
Unfortunately, the game took a turn for the worst for the home side when second-half play resumed with the visitors clocking two converted tries before the hourmark.
Panthers winger Ratu Tuisese was the first to cross the stripe before lock Tyrone May followed suit minutes later.
Cleary converted both goals to make it 24-12.
The Panthers added further salt to the wound nine minutes out from time when centre Robert Jennings crossed the stripe.
St George Illawarra Dragons 12. Tries: Dufty. Leilua. Goals: Kemp (2/2).
Penrith Panthers 28. Tries: Edwards, Waddell, Tuisese, May. Goals: Cleary (4/5).