The day started with a costly breakfast and ended in defeat for St George Illawarra, who fell 24-16 to the Sydney Roosters in Wollongong.
- The Dragons were playing without Paul Vaughan, who was forced to withdraw from the match after breaking the NRL’s biosecurity protocols
- The Roosters made sure they stayed inside the top four with the win over the Dragons
- The defending premiers crossed for five tries, with the in-form Joseph Manu scoring a double
Although promising in stages, the Dragons were overcome by the undermanned Roosters, who hold down fourth place on the NRL ladder.
The home side’s defeat came hours after star Dragons prop Paul Vaughan was stood down for the next fortnight by the NRL for breaching the league’s biosecurity protocols.
Level at 10-all at half-time, the Roosters had enough class left on the field to snatch the win with three tries to one after the break.
With 15 minutes to play the Dragons were down by six points on the scoreboard when a lazy defensive play brought it all undone.
A spiralling bomb from Luke Keary was left to bounce and James Tedesco was on the spot to feed it to Joseph Manu to score untouched.
Five-eighth Keary then polished off the win with a late try, another moment that could be costly for the Dragons with Jackson Ford placed on report for an apparent trip.
Earlier on Thursday, Vaughan was found to have breached the NRL’s COVID-19 protocols by having breakfast in a cafe.
Vaughan was ruled out of the Roosters encounter and will now be sidelined for a fortnight.
It was a crushing blow for the Dragons after coach Paul McGregor had already dropped underperforming half Corey Norman for the must-win match.
As it stands at the start of round 13, the Dragons are four points out of the top eight and will need to win at least six of their last seven matches against top teams to be a chance to make the finals.
For the second week in a row, Tristan Sailor gave the Dragons a spark from the bench and he had a hand in a try soon after coming onto the field in the 35th minute.
But as dangerous as McGregor’s side looked in patches, the Roosters simply scrambled harder without nine regular starters.
There were arguably as many stars on the sidelines as on the field, with Boyd Cordner, Brett and Josh Morris, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Angus Crichton, Daniel Tupou, Kyle Flanagan, Victor Radley and Sam Verrills all watching from the stands.
Roosters favourite Mitch Aubusson gave them something to cheer about in the 14th minute when he crossed for a try in his 300th NRL match.
For the Dragons, there is concern for second rower Tariq Sims who came off late with a shoulder injury.
It does not get easier next week with the Dragons set to play Parramatta, while the Roosters will face Melbourne.