Western Suburbs Magpies have come up agonisingly short in their bid to move back in to the top eight of the Canterbury Cup with a thrilling 24-24 draw against St. George-Illawarra.
Having already shared the points with the Dragons earlier this year, Wests looked to be on their way to turning it around with a commanding 24-6 lead in the second half before a stirring comeback from the visitors set the game up for a grandstand finish.
In the end, it was the Magpies who had the best chance to steal the game late with a disallowed try from a forward pass before Jock Madden — named as captain for the game and one of the best on ground — was just wide with his field goal attempt.
The draw leaves Western Suburbs with plenty of work to do if they are to climb their way back in to the top eight with five straight away matches to end the season.
Currently sitting in 10th position, Brett Hodgson's side are just one point behind the seventh-placed Wentworthville Magpies with a crucial clash coming up next Friday against the Newcastle Knights prior to the two sides' Round 20 NRL clash.
Despite starting the match in less than ideal fashion with an error in their first set, the Magpies were able to open the scoring after five minutes when Russell Packer and Robbie Rochow combined to put Dylan Smith away, before the fullback drew and passed perfectly to put Madden over for his first Canterbury Cup try.
Soni Luke's sharp run from dummy half put Oliver Clark over under the posts after 11 minutes to extend the hosts' lead to 12-0 after as many minutes before the Dragons quickly hit back thanks to some sharp work from their left edge.
Madden was again heavily involved for his side's third try as a sharp cut-out put Tommy Talau over after some lovely footwork from the centre, and when Luke crossed shortly after half-time it was looking like a big win for the home side.
However, an error in the ensuing set gifted the Dragons possession and a strong run from Josh Kerr saw them reduce the margin to 12 points off the back of it.
Kept quiet for most of the afternoon, Tristian Sailor would turn the game on its head when he picked up a kick from Madden on his own goal-line before beating five defenders to score a length-of-the-field try, before Shaun Sauni-Esau sensationally levelled the match with 10 minutes remaining after Sailor's sideline conversion.
Max Burey looked to have won the game for Wests when he put Jack Miller over with four minutes remaining — only for the final pass to be ruled forward — before Madden's missed field goal attempt late on ensured the game finished even.
Having already tasted NRL action in 2019, Oliver Clark was impressive for the hosts with 132 metres from as well as 42 tackles while Robert Jennings was strong after dropping back from first-grade with 137 metres from a team-high 18 carries.
Match: Magpies v Dragons
Round 18 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney