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Jersey Flegg Cup: Hot start not enough as Dragons fall to Panthers

A sizzling start was not enough to propel the injury-hit Dragons to victory against the Panthers falling 38-12 in wet conditions at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Dragons jumped out to an early 12-0 advantage before the loss of right edge duo Jesse Williams and David Afu to injury saw the Panthers storm ahead.

The hosts poured on 38 unanswered to claim a key win in difficult conditions with fullback Nick Murphy nabbing a double.

The Dragons found themselves on the attack early after a Ben Rumble offload sent Afu into space in what was the first Jersey Flegg outing of his young career.

Aaron Hertsch’s men managed to strike first just two plays later through Cyrus Stanley-Traill who powered his way over off some savvy Kyan Hjaltason dummy-half work.

Ashton Ward slotted the extras to give the visitors a 6-0 advantage just five minutes into the contest.

Despite the slippery conditions, the Dragons’ attack ignited to make it two four-pointers in as many sets with Rumble and Afu again wreaking havoc down the right edge to send Jesse Williams flying down the sideline.

Williams outgunned the cover and found his supporting No.1 back on the inside for the side’s second as the lead grew to a dozen.

A mid-air collision saw Wiliams assisted from the field for a HIA halfway through the opening stanza with Tyler Peckham-Harris entering play for his first taste of Jersey Flegg action.

Aided by a late set restart, the Panthers found their first points of the afternoon the following set off a ricocheting grubber that ended up in the hands of front rower Hokafonu Lemoto.

The hosts found another soon after off a frenetic, last tackle play that included several bouncing offloads and ended with Poutoa Hotere-Papalii diving over in the left corner.

Jirah Liddiard’s conversion was waved away as the visitors remained ahead by two points.

The hosts hit the lead just shy of the break off the back of another late set restart with Murphy stepping and sliding his way over to make it 16-12.

Panthers lock Billy Phillips was placed on report in the opening stages of the second stanza for a dangerous tackle on Afu which forced the rampaging centre from the field and brought replacement player Isaac Laughton into the action.

An intercept saw the hosts storm back onto the attack with second rower Francis Manuleleua charging his way over to extend their lead to double digits.

The Panthers’ fifth came with 20 minutes remaining through Murphy who swept into space down the right corridor and stepped his way over for his second before Jakeb Vailalo darted his way over as the hosts extended their lead further.

The Dragons lost a second to foul play entering the final 10 as Callum Leikvoll was helped from the field after being collected high by Bayden Moran who was placed on report.

Luke Philp swallowed an intercept to race away for the Panthers in the final stages and seal their comeback 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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