The St George Illawarra Dragons were 14-12 winners over the Penrith Panthers at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Sunday.
The Red-and-Whites scored two tries in the win courtesy of Euan Aitken and Josh Dugan while Gareth Widdop kicked three goals.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had made only the one change to the line-up announced midweek with utility Jake Marketo named on the interchange in lieu of co-captain Ben Creagh.
The latter had been omitted due to a minor knee issue having previously featured seven days prior in his team’s impressive 8-6 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the SCG.
That win had been the Dragons’ first of the new competition season and they were keen entering the encounter to build upon that momentum.
Dragons co-captain Gareth Widdop put that intent into practice with a well-placed penalty goal in the 11th minute of play.
The hosts had been denied the lead four minute earlier when winger Jason Nightingale’s strip of centre Waqa Blake and subsequent 65-metre run was ruled a foul.
The Panthers managed to level-up proceedings through a penalty goal of their own, taken by halfback Jamie Soward, in the 42nd minute.
However, this did not stifle the home side who reclaimed the lead through centre Euan Aitken in the 53rd minute.
The local Merimbula-Pambula Bulldogs junior had used his upper-body strength to palm the likes of both utility Tyrone Peachey as well as Soward en-route to the stripe before grounding behind the posts.
Widdop converted to make it 8-2.
Unfortunately, the opposition rallied to score their own four-pointer through centre Peta Hiku on the hour mark.
Soward followed-up with his conversion to level the game at 8-all.
Both teams set-up a nail-bitting finish in the closing ten minutes of play, which commenced with Panthers winger Josh Mansour crossing for his team’s second try seven minutes from time.
This was matched by the individual effort of Dragons fullback Josh Dugan, who overcame four markers to barge his way over the white line and level the game at 12-all.
Widdop’s conversion proved the difference as his follow-up goal make it 14-12.
St George Illawarra Dragons 14. Tries: Aitken, Dugan. Goals: Widdop (2/2). Penalty Goal: Widdop (1/1).
Penrith Panthers 12. Tries: Hiku, Mansour. Goals: Soward (1/2). Penalty Goal: Soward (1/1).