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St George Illawarra keep their season alive with a 16-14 victory over the Penrith Panthers and set up a potential sudden death blockbuster on the Northern Beaches with the final top eight yet to be decided with a round remaining.

Dragons remain alive in finals race

It was hard-fought and went for the entire 80 minutes but St George Illawarra's victory has now put destiny in their own hands – a remarkable result given their chances were considered slim a fortnight ago.

In an intriguing finish to the regular season, the Dragons now only need to beat the Bulldogs next week and they're in the top eight.

The downside? Lose to the Bulldogs and their season is done. 

"The key to making finals football is in our hands, we've just got to make it happen with one more game of footy," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said. 

"We're capable of doing it."

Penrith now face uphill battle

On the flipside to the Dragons' win, Penrith now incredibly find themselves in trouble – needing a victory against the Sea Eagles next Saturday night to guarantee their spot in the finals 

The Panthers will know more on Thursday night with the Cowboys-Broncos clash critical in determining whether they need a certain win or whether losing by a small margin will be enough to see them clinch a finals berth.

Nevertheless, the loser of the Sea Eagles-Panthers clash will be sweating on Saturday night with a Dragons victory on Sunday to potentially end their season.

"We were our own worst enemy and paid a price for it," Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said.

"It was a big game with a prize at the end."

Dugan omission no distraction

St George Illawarra's decision to stand down Josh Dugan for the contest played little part in the result with the Dragons firing from the start.

Dugan missed the team's bus en route to Penrith and McGregor told the Australian Test centre he would be a late scratching as a result.

"Discipline is important to our footy team and on game day especially," McGregor said.

"He didn't arrive on time after we spoke about what was needed most recently. I know the conversation will be centred around it being Round 25 with the season on the line but we want to drive standards."

Edwards' injury as salt to wounds

Penrith could be without fullback Dylan Edwards for next week's vital clash after missing the second half of Sunday's match with a knee injury.

Griffin said the 21-year-old would need scans on Monday. 

"He's got a low-grade medial, that's what the [medical staff] are saying," the coach said.

"At half-time when he come off the injury cooled down and he couldn't take anymore part in the game. [Dylan] is quite positive and he's a good healer but for him not to play on there's something there."

Matt Moylan is also no guarantee to return from a hamstring injury.

Sims winds back the clock

Dragons back-rower Tariq Sims put in arguably his best performance for the Red V and won out over cousin Reagan Campbell-Gillard with a 143-metre effort. 

The battle between the pair was enthralling and set the tone for the fixture until a one-on-one strip by Sims set up an enormous finish, with the back-rower running 50 metres to score the match-winning try.

Skipper Gareth Widdop was the iceman at the death, controlling the game off the boot.

"I thought Gaz's control was exceptional and as a team we done what was needed," McGregor said of Widdop.

"Considering the changes going into the game late, it's the best win of the year I think."


Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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