The St George Illawarra Dragons have denied the Brisbane Broncos a place in the finals with a stirring 22-12 victory at Kogarah on Saturday evening.
Finishing the season with three straight wins to fall short of the finals, despite boasting a 50 per cent winning record, the Dragons were a class above a disappointing Broncos side, who failed to grasp the importance of the season-defining occasion.
Taking advantage of their opponent's poor ball control during the opening stages, the Dragons capitalised with Jack Bird (5th minute) powering through four defenders to slam the ball down for first points.
Managing to withstand further pressure, along with Thomas Flegler being sent to the sin bin for forceful contact to the head of Mat Feagai, the Broncos levelled the scores at 6-all courtesy of a well-worked play finished off by Delouise Hoeter (25th minute).
Ben Hunt demonstrated his class as one of the front-runners for the Dally M medal with his sixth 40/20 kick of the season; the home side took advantage of the ensuing field position with Feagai (36th minute) touching down out wide to give the Dragons a 10-6 lead at the break.
Going further in front shortly after the resumption, Cody Ramsey (44th minute) was on the spot to race onto an offload from Hunt following an error from Te Maire Martin inside the Broncos half.
Crossing for a crucial four-pointer on the hour mark to narrow the margin to less than a converted try, Billy Walters (59th minute) used the greasy conditions to slide over from close range.
In a nervous final quarter which saw Hunt produce a try-saving tackle on Zac Hosking and Zac Lomax denied a four-pointer by the bunker, little-known outside-back Feagai (75th minute) produced a star-making piece of individual brilliance to seal the result.
Playing the final minutes a man down after Kotoni Staggs was sin-binned for high contact on Andrew McCullough, the Broncos were left to rue what could have been as the Dragons ran out ten-point winners.
*Brisbane could *mathematically* qualify for the finals on for-and-against in the unlikely event that Wests Tigers defeat Canberra by a margin of 54-points tomorrow afternoon.