Winger Mikaele Ravalawa scored a brace of tries but it was not enough as Saint George Illawarra Dragons went down 26-18 to a strong Penrith Panthers in Round 14 of NRL on Sunday.
Both sides put on a strong arm wrestle from the opening minute of the match but the Dragons shed the first blood through a Zac Lomax penalty goal in the 7th minute.
Three minutes later, the defending champs responded with a Brian To’o try in the 10th minute and Nathan Cleary converted for a full 6 pointers.
Ravalawa scored the first of the tries for the Dragons and his first of two for the night to put his side back in the contest while Lomax kicked his second penalty goal to extend the lead.
The Fijian winger scored his second with four minutes remaining in the half to put the Dragons in front before the opponents were blown away when Cleary was taken out off the field after sustaining a hamstring injury and Stephen Crichton replaced him.
The Panthers showed their class to ensure they didn’t go to the sheds behind, with To’o going over for his second in the dying seconds of the half and Crichton landed the conversion to tie the score line at 12-12 into the break.
Early in the remaining half, Crichton booted a penalty while Fiji Bati winger Sunia Turuva pulled the third try for the Panthers in somewhat controversial circumstances after some Dragons fans questioned their right to have the ball after the visitors were ruled to have knocked the ball on inside their own half, with a late call from the sideline official.
Lomax dotted the third converted try for the Dragons in the 65th minute looking for a win but it was Moses Leota that had the final say in the match for the Panthers scoring a converted try and Crichton added the final penalty to seal the win.