FOR the fifth time in the National Youth Cup’s short and contentious history, St George Illawarra fell with a grand final finish line in sight.
It seemed like the Dragons were destined for a place on the undercard of the NRL’s biggest stage next Sunday when leading by 14 at half-time.
But the Roosters delivers a brilliant and brutal second-half performance, scoring five tries to win 26-20 at Allianz Stadium.
As a result, St George Illawarra add 2016 to 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2014 as near misses in the soon-to-be-defunct under 20 competition.
Roosters second-rower Victor Radley started the second-half procession with a statement of intent to score just two minutes after the break.
By the time Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck raced away to score, on the end of a loose Luciano Leilua pass off the ground which led to the Roosters try, the dream was over for the Dragons.
Leilua had a major impact early, as the Dragons marched to a 14-nil half-time lead, with halfback Jack Payne taking on the line and bouncing off the Roosters defence to score less than two minutes before the break.
Having made his NRL debut this season, Leilua dived over in the 11th minute after being on the end of a stunning Matt Dufty offload close to the line. It was captain Patrick Herbert who started the early dominance, with determined straight-line running to crash over just five minutes in, as St George Illawarra had 58 per cent of the ball and 10 more sets in the opening 40 minutes.