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Second half comeback earns late draw for Magpies

A thrilling second half comeback has seen the Western Suburbs Magpies earn a 22-22 draw against the St. George-Illawarra Dragons in their Round 12 Canterbury Cup clash today.

Having controlled the game well last week to post a big win over South Sydney, Brett Hodgson's side were the antithesis this weekend with handling errors and penalties relieving pressure on the Dragons right throughout the match allowing the home side the chance to build a commanding lead for the majority of the game.

Hodgson will have been pleased, however, with the fight shown throughout the second half as Western Suburbs reeled off three late tries to secure a point in the end that keeps the Magpies on the edge of the top four ahead of next week's clash against the top-of-the-table Mounties at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

Off the back of their good win last week, the Magpies began the match in strong fashion with several sets on the Dragons' line inside the opening 10 minutes, but an unforced error would give the home side a much-needed reprieve. 

That would set the tone for a frustrating first half for Western Suburbs, who went behind 6-0 after a simple missed tackle on their line from a quick tap by Josh Kerr.

An ensuing error from the kickoff would put the Dragons back on the attack, and the Red V quickly made two tries to nil as Pio Sokobalavau crashed over — allowing Tristian Sailor another simple conversion to extend the lead to 12-0.

One of the Magpies' best so far this season, Kane Bradley would single-handedly pull his side back in to the contest when he raced the best part of 80 metres to score off an intercept from Matt Dufty. That would pave the way again for Wests to build a great period of sustained pressure on the Dragons' line, but they would be unable to break through — even with a sin-bin against Jayden Morgan — as the home side somehow went to the sheds with a 12-4 advantage next to their name.

Beginning the second half shorthanded, a long kick from Soni Luke would gift the Dragons a rare chance to extend their lead further and they would again take full advantage of the opportunity as Steven Marsters collected the high kick to score.

When Jason Gillard crossed in the 50th minute to give the Dragons a 22-4 lead, the home side looked home and hosed before an inspired interchange from Hodgson to bring Bilal Maarbani on in the centres brought the Magpies back in to the contest.

Maarbani crossed for a quick-fire double in the space of 10 minutes to cut the hosts lead to just six points entering the final few minutes of the game, before Braden Robson's late offload found Watson Heleta close to the line with a minute to go.

With the clock winding down, Aupouri showed no nerves from close range to slot the final conversion and level the match at 22-22 — earning his side a much-needed point after a frantic comeback and some confidence ahead of next week's game.

Bradley, Heleta and Oliver Clark all finished the match with standout numbers, while young forward Sam McIntyre topped the tackle count for both sides with 40.

Western Suburbs Magpies 22 (Maarbani 2, Bradley, Heleta tries; Aupouri 3/4 goals) drew with St. George-Illawarra Dragons 22 (Kerr, Sokobalavau, Marsters, Gillard tries; Sailor 3/4 goals) at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

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