The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 34-24 by the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park on Thursday.
The Red-and-Whites, wearing their special Indigenous jersey, scored four tries in the loss whilst five-eighth Gareth Widdop converted four of his seven goal attempts.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had opted against making any changes in personnel ahead of the match and had his faith rewarded in the form of second-rower Jake Marketo, who crashed over the stripe in the third minute.
The celebrations did not last long as the home side soon equalised through centre Bryson Goodwin, who had dummied himself into a scoring position, in the 13th minute.
The home side though were minutes later let-down by the ill-discipline of second-rower Paul Carter who was penalised for failing to release Marketo in a tackle.
Widdop made no mistake in front of goal to restore his team’s lead.
The visitors though further extended their advantage with a purely magnificent 75-metre run down the left flank by centre Tim Lafai, who made it 10-4 in the 25th minute.
Dragons fullback Josh Dugan had commenced the play after from a 20-metre restart and quickly passed to Widdop, who in turn spotted the Toa Samoa international unmarked on his left.
Rabbitohs prop George Burgess was penalised five minutes later for a high-hit on Dugan and Widdop again converted the subsequent penalty goal.
Unfortunately, the home side rallied late in the stanza when wingers Dane Nielsen and Cody Walker both etched their respective names on the scoresheet.
Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds converted one of his two attempts to gift his team a 14-12 lead at the break.
The Dragons were awarded a third penalty as a result of the hosts’ ill-discipline when second-half play resumed after Dugan was prevented from playing the ball by Rabbitohs prop Sam Burgess.
Widdop made no mistake from the tee to level the game at 14-all.
The Rabbitohs though managed to once again seize the lead through second-rower Kyle Turner in the 46th minute.
Reynolds had been the orchestrator of the try with a pin-point bomb which found an aerial Goodwin, who managed to flick the ball onto the path of the back-rower.
Dragons winger Kalifa Faifai Loa narrowed the deficit back to within two points after he notched his fourth try of the season moments in the 53rd minute.
The flanker had out-manoeuvred two markers to chase down and plant a smart second-play grubber from the inside foot of halfback Josh McCrone.
The Rabbitohs were awarded a controversial try just after the hour mark when Carter was adjourned to have scored between the uprights,
The Dragons had protested that Dugan had been first to the ball and grounded it, injuring his arm in the process, only for the NRL Referee Bunker to rule otherwise.
Reynolds converted his goal attempt to make it 26-18.
The home side disappointingly scored a further four-pointer, again through Goodwin from the boot of Reynolds, in the 74th minute.
Reynolds converted his opportunity to make it 32-18.
However, Dragons second-rower Will Matthews scored a final consolatory try having benefited from the quick hands of McCrone two minutes later.
Widdop managed to score the extras and make it 32-24.
Reynolds added salt to the wound with a further two-points from a slotted penalty goal on the cusp of fulltime.
St George Illawarra Dragons 24. Tries: Marketo, Lafai, Faifai Loa, Matthews. Goals: Widdop (1/4). Penalty Goals: Widdop (3/3).
South Sydney Rabbitohs 34. Tries: Goodwin (2), Nielsen, Walker, Turner, Carter. Goals: Reynolds (4/6). Penalty Goal: Reynolds (1/1).