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Jersey Flegg Cup: Warriors take down Dragons in seesawing affair

The Dragons Jersey Flegg Cup outfit went down to the Warriors 28-22 at Figtree’s Collegians Sporting Complex in drizzly conditions on Saturday.

Troubled by the Warriors’ power game early on, back-to-back second half tries sparked a resurgence for Aaron Hertsch’s Dragons, but the tide turned rapidly back the way of the visitors.

A three-try, five-minute period proved the difference as the Dragons slumped to their third loss of the year.

The omissions of Ben Rumble and Cain Barnes forced a late reshuffle for the hosts with Ben Lavender moving to the back, Campbell Watchirs shifting into the centres, Ethan Cliff coming onto the wing and Round 6 try-scorer Jack Quine earning a start on the edge.

A clinical passage of play saw the Dragons get off to a hot start with halfback Ashton Ward sending Khye Russell into space down the right flank.

The Dragons winger stepped his way past some cover and found his supporting No.7 back on the inside who delivered a peach of a pass to centre Will Starling for the opening points of the morning.

Ward threw over the extras to make it 6-0 less than 10 minutes into the contest.

The Warriors took advantage of a fifth tackle overlap their next possession and threatened to answer only for a late drop to spoil their raid.

Skipper Kyan Hjaltason forced an error off his boot the following set to put the Red V back on the attack, but a mistimed error prevented them from improving the lead.

A crusher penalty put the Warriors on the front foot only for a steady Hamish Stewart slips take to put an end to the raid and send the hosts charging back upfield.

Dragons lock Matthew Alhazim was assisted from the field 20 minutes in with an apparent leg issue with Nick Tsougranis his replacement in his second game back from injury.

The Warriors came up with a response soon after via hooker Makaia Tafua who burrowed his way over under the sticks to tie things up.

The visitors marched down the other end just shy of the break to claim their second through left winger Garry Tuilekutu to make it 10-6.

A Warriors error carting it out of their own end gifted the Red V an opportunity to post the final points of the opening half but some spirited defence saw the visitors drive a Dragon into touch as another attacking set came to a close courtesy of an error.

Back-to-back penalties sent the Dragons back on the attack with the raid this time proving fruitful as Travis Barrett-Hancock poured through a hole off Tsougranis to dive over next to the sticks.

Ward’s conversion put the hosts back ahead by two with a little under half an hour to play.

The Dragons were straight back down the other thanks to a crusher penalty with Quine steaming through a hole down the left edge off some sharp Nick Quinn ball-playing for his second try in as many weeks.

Ward’s conversion drifted across the face of goal from out wide as the scoreline remained 16-10 the way of the hosts.

A loose offload bounced the way of the Warriors soon after with Tuilekutu scooping up the crumbs to dive over in the left corner.

Salesi Piliu’s conversion from the left touchline caused some confusion amongst the officials with the touch judges disagreeing over the result of the kick but the two points was added to the scoreboard.

Things went from bad to worse for the hosts with Tuilekutu finishing off a Warriors break to nab his third try of the encounter the following set and wrestle the lead back the way of the visitors.

Momentum continued to swing firmly the way of the Warriors who made it three tries in as many sets with Tafua crawling his way over next to the sticks for his second off several half breaks.

Hjaltason snagged a needed one-on-one strip off the kick-off to keep the Dragons’ hopes alive with Stewart bumping his way over off a nice hole run off the back of it for the side’s fourth.

Ward’s conversion was successful as the Dragons moved back within a single score with five minutes on the clock.

Unfortunately, the Red V were unable to find another score to cap off their late fightback as the Warriors held on for a six-point victory.

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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