St George Illawarra Dragons National Youth Competition team were defeated 20-18 by the Penrith Panthers at Centrebet Stadium on Monday.
The Young Dragons were leading for the majority of the match following tries to trio Blake Phillips, Evander Cummins and Charly Runciman only for their efforts to be undone on the fulltime whistle.
The Red-and-Whites had drawn 24-all against the North Queensland Cowboys to clinch a valuable competition point north of the border last round but knew they needed a win to continue their momentum up the table.
Head Coach Justin Holbrook had opted to standby the line-up announced in midweek and his men repaid his faith early on with the intention of scoring.
The Young Dragons had started the match-up intent on scoring and their intentions were answered by lock Blake Phillips in the 15th minute.
Kicking duties were bestowed upon Daniel Burke and the hooker was on strike for the extras.
Unfortunately, the visitors’ six-point lead was cut-back to two in as many minutes by Panthers captain Vaipuna Tia Kilifi.
Young Dragons fullback Evander Cummins secured his name on the scoresheet following his blistering pace on the park before Burke again added the extras to make it 12-4.
However, the Panthers regrouped and on the cusp of halftime notched their second try of the evening following Chris Knight’s efforts over the white stripe.
The visitors found themselves trailing five minutes into the recommencement of second-half play with Tia Kilifi bagging his second of the match.
The second-rower’s efforts were matched by five-eight Harry Siejka’s successful strike making it 14-12 in the home side’s favour.
Fortunately, Holbrook’s stalwarts rallied and soon found themselves in poll-position once again five minutes later.
Young Dragons centre Charly Runciman was the orchestrator of the four-points following his blistering dash down the left flank before Burke’s boot from the tee was again on target.
The Panthers continued pressuring the visitors defence in search of a match-equalising try and it came on the fulltime whistle.
Winger Nick Mataia’s last-minute match-levelling charge down the right-flank was ultimately too fast for the Red-and-White defence to absorb.
And Seijka, with 50-seconds remaining, accurately booted from the tee to make it 20-18 and seal he visitors to defeat.