Hull FC ran St George Illawarra close but fell short to the Dragons 24-18 at the ANZ Stadium.
Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton and Mark Minichiello were ruled out for Hull through injury. Carlos Tuimavave, Chris Green, Brad Fash, Jez Litten, Jansin Turgut, Jordan Lane, Jack Downs and Masi Matongo came into the side on the bench.
England stars Gareth Widdop and James Graham started for St George Illawarra.
It was Lee Radford’s side who drew first blood in the 10th minute. Jake Connor made a break down the right wing and put a kick back on the inside for Albert Kelly to collect and score. Marc Sneyd converted to put Hull 6-0 up.
The Dragons replied just four minutes later though. Italy front-rower Paul Vaughan made a superb offload as Tim Lafai went over out wide. Widdop added the extras to level the score at 6-6.
New Zealand’s veteran winger Jason Nightingale put St George Illawarra in the lead when he stepped Josh Griffin to finish well in the corner. Widdop couldn’t add the conversion but the Dragons were 10-6 ahead.
Hull stuck in the game and continued to be a threat going forward. They went back in front on the half hour mark, with Albert Kelly showing fantastic footwork and burst through the Dragons defence. Sneyd’s boot put FC in a narrow 12-10 lead.
St George Illawarra thought they had scored on the brink of half-time as Jeremy Latimore latched onto Ben Hunt’s fine chip but it was ruled out as Jason Nightingale had touched the ball before Latimore. Hull went into the sheds 12-10 ahead.
Vaughan went over for the Dragons shortly after the restart but his effort was chalked off by the video referee because Liam Watts had the ball ripped on his own line by Cameron McInnes.
But they did score just a couple of minutes later. Papua New Guinea star Nene MacDonald finished brilliantly in the corner after a quick passing move. Widdop couldn’t convert but the Dragons led 14-12.
MacDonald got his second in the 52nd minute. The big centre got the better of Jake Connor to touch down just centimetres away from the touchline. The conversion attempt went wide, Dragons 18-12 FC.
Watts brought Hull back in the game on the hour. The prop forward crashed over the line from close range. Sneyd’s conversion tied the score at 18-18.
Kurt Mann all but sealed the win for the NRL side with five minutes from time. He showed a nice bit of footwork to score. Jai Field converted to put the Dragons 24-18 in front.
Reubuen Garrick went over for St George Illawarra at the death but it was ruled out by the video referee due to a knock-on earlier in play. It didn’t matter too much though as the Dragons ran-out 24-18 winners at the ANZ Stadium.
Hull FC: 1 Shaul; 2 Faraimo, 14 Connor, 4 Griffin, 5 Talanoa; 6 Kelly, 7 Sneyd (C); 10 Watts, 11 Hadley, 23 Paea; 21 Manu, 17 Washbrook; 13 Bowden. Subs: 3 Tuimavave, 15 Green, 16 Abdull, 20 Fash, 22 Litten, 24 Logan, 25 Turgut, 26 Lane, 27 Downs, 29 Matongo.
St George Illawarra: 1 Duffy; 2 Garrick, 3 Mann, 4 Lafai, 5 Nightingale; 6 Widdop (C), 7 Hunt; 8 Graham, 9 McInnes, 10 Vaughan; 11 Leilua, 12 Sims; 13 Ah Mau. Subs: 14 Latimore, 15 Field, 16 Aitken, 17 Sele, 18 Robson, 19 Nicholls, 20 Lomax, 21 Lawrie, 22 Kerr, 23 Host, 24 Allgood, 25 MacDonald.