The Illawarra Cutters slipped to third on the NSW Cup ladder after their 24-16 loss to Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.
After a shake up in personnel before the match the Cutters shot to a 12-0 lead by means of of tries to Tyrone Cranston, who replaced the injured Kyle Eather at fullback, and prop Josh Ailaomai.
The Tigers hit back through Andy Fiugatusa after 27 minutes and took a 18-12 lead into the half-time break with tries to Andrew Vela and Corey Brown inside the final three minutes of the half.
Jared Farlow extended the Tigers' lead to 24-12 in the 56th minute.
Pene Botiki gave the Cutters a chance with a 63rd minute try to draw closer (24-16) but the visitors couldn't find the points in the final stages of the match.
Despite the result, it was a courageous performance after preparations were disrupted by injury and call ups to the Dragons' NRL squad.
"Kyle Eather tore his hamstring at training during the week and we lost Charlie Faingaa as well.
"He had a fitness test on Wednesday and was no good with an ankle complaint. He started for us last week and was pretty strong up front," coach Scott Logan said.
"We had three full-time guys missing from last week, Peter Mata'utia and Greeny [Nathan Green] went down to Canberra [for the Dragons] as 18th man and Kyle Stanley got a start as well.
Logan said there was plenty to like effort.
"I thought we defended quite well. Our attitude towards defence was good but, because we had to do so much of it when we got in good field position, we couldn't quite finesse it over the line," Logan said.
"We got to 12-0 and we showed a fair bit of resilience in defence.
"It wasn't perfect, we made a few errors in that first 20 minutes, but we still scored two tries.
"But we gave a lot of penalties around the ruck and started to make some errors. They compounded each other and consequently we gave them field position and they scored three unanswered tries before half-time."