The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 12-8 by the Brisbane Broncos at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Thursday.
The Red-and-Whites scored only the one try in the wet weather conditions with co-captain Gareth Widdop getting his name on the score sheet.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had gifted local Hurstvile United junior Luciano Leilua his first-grade debut after naming the second-rower on the interchange.
He was joined by fellow local Kiama Knights junior Mitch Rein on the bench after he was replaced by utility Jake Marketo as starting hooker.
In a final move, second-rower Tyrone McCarthy was named to partner Will Matthews following the suspension of Tyson Frizell.
Despite holding the Broncos out after back-to-back line dropouts, the visitors were rewarded with a penalty directly in front, with lock Corey Parker electing to take the two points for an early lead five minutes in.
The Dragons opted to level the scores up ten minutes later following a penalty, with five-eighth Gareth Widdop knocking the ball over from directly in front.
It took a perfectly weighted grubber kick from Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford to second-rower Sam Thaiday for the opening try, with the Queensland Maroons representative diving on the rolling ball in the in-goal.
Parker added the extras to give the Broncos a 8-2 lead with 15 minutes remaining, which they would take into the sheds.
The Dragons looked to have pulled back 15 minutes into the second-half with a spectacular try to winger Kurt Mann only for it to be overturned by the NRL Bunker.
The Broncos took advantage, with fullback Darius Boyd throwing a cut out pass to winger Lachlan Maranta on the right edge, giving the visitors a 12-2 lead 20 minutes remaining.
A brilliant bomb from Dragons halfback Benji Marshall though found the waiting arms of Widdop, who fell over the line untouched with four minutes remaining.
Widdop converted the try from directly in front to set up a grandstand finish, but unfortunately it was too little too late.
St George Illawarra Dragons: 8 Tries: Widdop Goal: Widdop (1/1). Penalty Goal: Widdop (1/1).
Brisbane Broncos: 12. Tries: Maranta, Thaiday. Goals: Parker (1/2) Penalty Goal: Parker (1/1).