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The St George Illawarra Dragons Premier League side has missed the chance to hit the top of the table after going down to the Penrith St Mary?s Cougars 26-12 at WIN Stadium today.
Despite arguably looking a more dangerous outfit with the ball in hand, the Dragons bombed multiple opportunities at key stages and were made to pay the price.
Best for the home side was Chris Sheppard, who consistently took the Cougars line on. Sam Isemonger (pictured) had a blinder in his first match for the Dragons. The former Shark crossed for two tries and tackled his heart out in a strong performance.
In a stark contrast to last week, the Dragons found themselves behind after four minutes. Cougars winger Michael Gordon managed to outjump Tom Hewitt on the eastern flank to claim a pin point bomb and score.
Gordon made no mistakes in converting his own try from the sideline.
The next ten minutes were dominated by referee Steve Lyons whistle. The former first grade mediator blew no less than six penalties.
With the crowd size building, so was the Dragons attacking pressure. Lock Aaron Wheatley was unlucky to not provide his sides first points after his final pass to an unmarked Brett Morris went astray.
The blunder was soon forgotten however when Sam Isemonger crossed for his first try in a red and white strip after 20 minutes. Attacking 30 metres out Sheppard put a precision pass on the chest of a rampaging Beau Ryan. The centre-three quarter busted the first line of Cougars defence then offloaded smartly to Isemonger who was backing up on the inside. Reece Blayney made no mistakes in converting from adjacent to the posts to bring the scores level.
The Dragons attack began to resemble the same fluency and class of last week. The likes of Sheppard and Wheatley were causing the visitors all sorts of headaches.
With 12 minutes till the break, Danny Wicks was denied a four pointer after he was adjudged to have committed a double movement. The set back didn?t prove costly as Isemonger crossed for his second try in the home sides very next set. Once again it was Sheppard taking the ball to the line and finding a team mate running an angled line. The backrower hit the line with precision and speed, scoring untouched.
With Blayney?s conversion, the Dragons kicked six points clear.
With only five left till the break, the Cougars clawed back to within two points after centre Chris Newton crashed over from close range. Gordon was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt, keeping the Dragons noses infront heading into the break.
Nine minutes into the second stanza, the Cougars levelled the scores through a penalty goal from Gordon.
The red and whites received a setback just ten minutes later when rookie flyer Josh Morris was helped from the field with what looked to be a leg injury. His speed was sorely missed during the next set of six when the Dragons bombed yet another try.
Sheppard chipped and regathered on his own 40, but with no nearby support, the halfback was forced to throw a long speculator pass to Hewitt. The pass was ruled to be forward.
With 20 minutes to go, the Cougars hit the lead with thanks to some luck.
A pin point grubber from half Wayne Boyd, ricochetd off the uprights and straight into the hands of Wallace who dived over.
Down by six, the Dragons continued to make errors in trying tp press the issue.
There was a glimmer of hope for the home side when Cougars prop Dave Thompson was sin binned, but a penalty goal from Gordon with just five to go, sealed the win for the visitors.
The Cougars made the result certain with two minutes left with thanks to a try from hooker Paul Aiton.
PENRITH - ST MARYS COUGARS 26 ( M GORDON, C NEWTON, P WALLACE, P AITON TRIES; M GORDON 5 GOALS) d. ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 12 (S ISEMONGER 2 TRIES; R BLAYNEY 2 GOALS)
In Jersey Flegg, the Dragons found themselves in the winners circle with a tough 30-20 win over the Panthers.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 30 (J NIGHTINGALE, B DUREAU, L MC PHAIL, L SETU, S SABLOWSKI TRIES; B DUREAU 3, N WYNN 2 GOALS)