Young Dragons march on to NYC preliminary finals
The Dragons have secured a spot in the Holden Cup preliminary finals after they outlasted Penrith 18-14 in a thrilling encounter at Allianz Stadium.
St George Illawarra had all the early running but it was the Panthers who grabbed the first points of the evening when Red V winger Steven Marsters sensed he was going into touch and hurled an offload back in-field that Dean Blore intercepted and raced away to score after 12 minutes.
Momentum was suddenly with the mountain men who moved further in front when late inclusion Jamon Wormleaton strolled through some flimsy defence to score a simple try in the left corner.
The Panthers looked certain to take an 8-0 lead into the sheds until Dragons winger Jason Gillard scooped up a loose ball in the dying seconds of the first half to cut the gap to two points at the break after Zac Lomax nailed the sideline conversion.
The change of ends worked wonders for the Dragons who levelled things up via a Lomax penalty goal and then hit the lead for the first time when Marsters atoned for his earlier error with a classy finish out wide.
St George Illawarra's lead didn't last long when Sam Martin-Savage danced through the defensive line to score a sensational solo try to make it 14-12 with 16 minutes left on the clock.
The roller-coaster ride took another massive twist when Lomax poked his nose through the line and popped a pass out the back that dribbled past the defence and straight into the arms of Marsters who touched down before Lomax slotted another clutch conversion to give the Red V an 18-14 lead.
The Panthers had their chances in the dying moments when Reed Izzard was somehow held up over the line before Jesse Abbott dummied when he should have passed to his unmarked winger.
There was time for one last bit of drama when Panthers star Wayde Egan was held up centimetres short of the line and were then awarded a penalty as the siren sounded but they couldn't make it count as the Dragons held on to advance to Week Three of the finals.
Dragons 18 (Steven Marsters 2, Jason Gillard tries; Zac Lomax 3 goals) defeated Panthers 14 (Dean Blore, Jamon Wormleaton, Sam Martin-Savage tries; Dean Blore 1 goal) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: 8-6 Panthers.