Melbourne Storm have succumbed to their third loss of the season, falling 6-20 to the Dragons in Wollongong on Saturday night.
In front of 7,568 at WIN Stadium, a young Storm side put in a gallant effort, defending well for long periods but ultimately fell short after two late tries to the hosts in the second half.
Craig Bellamy made numerous changes to his side pre-match with young halfback Brodie Croft making his first-grade debut in place of the injured Blake Green while Slade Griffin made his first NRL appearance in nearly three years.
Storm took an early lead with their first look at the try line shortly after kick-off, electing to kick for points following a penalty in front of the posts. Tohu Harris’ goal pushed his side out to a 2-0 advantage.
After the penalty goal, the Dragons then controlled the majority of possession forcing the young Melbourne outfit to defend for long periods.
Stoutly holding firm, it took a fortunate bounce for St. George Illawarra to open their account. Gareth Widdop’s kick took a ricochet off Kevin Proctor back into the former Storm playmaker’s hands as he handed the hosts the lead.
Melbourne defended strongly, only conceding one more penalty goal before the break to trail 2-8 at half-time.
Electing to kick for another penalty goal early in the second stanza, the Dragons pushed further ahead much to the delight of the home faithful.
Craig Bellamy’s side continued to hang in the contest, refusing to give in and were rewarded after a strong patch of play when Suliasi Vunivalu crossed for his 12th try of the season.
The four pointer came off the back of some enterprising wing play from Marika Koroibete down the left before a pin point Brodie Croft kick.
Continuing to make the most of their momentum, Melbourne were unable to find the lead after several attacks before Paul McGregor’s side managed to seal victory with back-to-back tries just after the hour mark.
Vunivalu picked up a consolation try in the final minute of play, pushing the winger to the top of the NRL’s try scoring charts.
Melbourne Storm 10
Tries: Suliasi Vunivalu 56m, 80m
Goals: Tohu Harris 1
St.George Illawarra 20
Tries: Gareth Widdop 19m, Kurt Mann 66m, Mitch Rein 70m
Goals: Gareth Widdop 4