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The finals hopes of the once high-flying Red V stay alive for another week after a nervous victory over the Penrith Panthers, in turn ending their opponents' six-game winning streak at Pepper Stadium this afternoon in front of more than 18,000 fans.
It was the winning side who started the stronger - Paul Vaughan aiming his hulking frame at the small men in the Penrith defensive line and crashing over to claim the title of unlikely First Try Scorer.
While the Dragons looked threatening their dominance didn't turn into any further points - instead the Panthers got on the board just short of the half-hour mark when Tyrone May dummied, stepped and jinked his way under the posts from 15 metres out to get the hosts back on level footing.
A Nathan Cleary penalty goal five minutes before halftime saw the home team lead for the first time, but the joy of the Penrith faithful was short-lived when Matt Dufty scored a spectacularly diving try on the left edge (pictured above).
Tasked with turning around a 12-8 deficit after halftime, Josh Mansour went about the task with aplomb after weaving through the defence for Penrith's second (and ultimately last) try of the day.
Tariq Sims was already having a wonderful game but it was his determination and style in the 56th minute which got the Dragons back in the lead, 12-14 becoming 16-14 and a grinding final twenty minutes to follow.
Neither side added further points, the visiting side doing enough to strangle the Panthers out of the contest as the game died out.
The win keeps the ninth-placed Dragons just two competition points behind the teams in 6th, 7th and 8th. A win over Canterbury next Sunday at ANZ Stadium should seem them do enough to make the finals - such a result would see them leapfrog the loser of the other key clash in the race for the eight - Penrith's visit to Manly on Saturday evening. The only way the Dragons miss out despite winning next Sunday is if the Sea Eagles and Panthers draw, and the Cowboys beat Brisbane as well.
Penrith Panthers 14 - St George Illawarra Dragons 16
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Halftime Score: Penrith Panthers 8 St George Illawarra Dragons 12
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Tariq Sims
2 points - Paul Vaughan
1 points - Tyrone May
PENRITH PANTHERS (14)
Tries: Tyrone May, Josh Mansour
Conversions: Nathan Cleary (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Nathan Cleary (1/1)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (16)
Tries: Paul Vaughan, Matthew Dufty, Tariq Sims
Conversions: Gareth Widdop (2/3)