Western Suburbs Magpies have seen their winning run halted by an impressive St. George-Illawarra Dragons outfit today, with the visitors running out 22-18 winners from their Round 16 Intrust Super Premiership clash at Leichhardt Oval.
Having already suffered a heavy loss to the Dragons once this season, Brett Hodgson's side again found it tough going against the visitors' aggression and physicality despite a strong home crowd behind them.
The loss sees Western Suburbs narrowly remain in third place on the Intrust Super Premiership ladder with the bye next week, while the Dragons draw level on points with Magpies to sit in fourth position.
Former Wests Tigers junior Pio Sokobalavau got the Dragons off to the perfect start when he crashed over under the posts after just two minutes of play, and the visitors' lead was soon doubled when Jordan Pereira spun away from Tyson Gamble to score his fifth try in just two games against the Magpies this year.
Jai Field had no problems converting both tries to put the Dragons ahead of the clock after 10 minutes.
Recently signed to a new deal in the NRL squad, Luke Garner got Western Suburbs back in the match when he showed his class on last tackle to keep the ball alive for Tyson Gamble to score on the inside.
Gamble would sneak his conversion in off the upright to reduce the Dragons lead to 12-6 after 18 minutes.
A clever short side raid would allow Shaun Sauni-Esau to extend the visitors' lead once more when he dived over untouched after 29 minutes, but Jacob Liddle would respond with a short side try of his own — taking the score to 16-10 as both sides entered the half-time sheds at Leichhardt Oval.
Desperate to fight back in the contest, Western Suburbs again found themselves under pressure off the back of consecutive penalties, and soon went behind further on the scoreboard as Jackson Ford crashed over on the left edge — question marks asked about the validity of the pass but the try was awarded nonetheless.
A penalty goal for Field allowed the Dragons to take their lead to two converted tries with just under half an hour to play, before Lucas Price kept the home side in the contest with his try on 58 minutes.
Gamble's missed conversion from out wide would crucially leave the visitors' lead at eight points.
Western Suburbs refused to go away and, with the strong Leichhardt Oval crowd cheering them on, set the game up for a grandstand finish when Price latched on to the end of Gamble's cross-field kick.
Gamble's missed conversion would leave the score at 22-18, with goal-kicking proving the difference in the end as the Dragons emerged with a four-point win despite both teams scoring four tries.
St. George-Illawarra Dragons 22 (Sokobalavau, Pereira, Sauni-Esau, Ford tries; Field 3/5 goals) def. Western Suburbs Magpies 18 (Price 2, Gamble, Liddle tries; Gamble 1/3 goals) at Leichhardt Oval