Dragons lose to under-strength Sydney Roosters

Rookie Roosters winger Nene Macdonald scores a try against the St George Illawarra Dragons at Allianz Stadium. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Rookie Roosters winger Nene Macdonald scores a try against the St George Illawarra Dragons at Allianz Stadium. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Roosers 30 Dragons 22

Defending premiers the Roosters put a dint in the the Dragons' slender top-eight hopes with a 30-22 win at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.

Two tries to star centre Michael Jennings on his return from a back injury suffered in Origin II helped sink the Dragons, who were decidedly lacklustre against a Roosters outfit missing superstar Sonny-Bill Williams in a match that was crucial to their belated finals charge. 

The Dragons looked disorganised and disjointed despite enjoying close to 60 per cent of the ball in the first half.

They barely resembled the slick outfit that ran in 28 points against the Tigers last week - with late tries to Benji Marshall and Josh Dugan adding respectability to a scoreline that ultimately flattered them.

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The loss leaves them one win adrift of a four-team cluster on 24 competition points in 11th place, after North Queensland and Parramatta also notched victories on Saturday.

They are still just one win out of the eight ahead of a crucial home clash with Penrith in Wollongong next week.

The Dragons enjoyed a glut of early possession and field on the back of three penalties but couldn't make the Roosters pay, with Marshall and Gareth Widdop handing back possession with uncharacteristic errors in a jittery start .

The let-off allowed the Roosters to strike first through Michael Jennings after 11 minutes when he latched onto a deflected Mitchell Pearce kick and touched down next to the posts to take a 6-0 lead. Referee Shayne Hayne sent the try upstairs with video referee Steve Clark giving the green light.

A forward pass from Roosters dummy-half Jake Friend on kickoff reception handed the ball straight back to the Dragons, who took full advantage when Brett Morris won the race to a Widdop grubber in the Rooster in-goal after a fumble from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to cut the lead to 6-4.

Sam Moa went close to extending the lead for the Roosters after 20 minutes but fumbled a pass from Friend just metres from the Dragons line.

The good fortune continued for the Dragons when Hayne allowed Morris to take a quick tap and shoot 50 metres up field despite having awarded an offside penalty. 

Joel Thompson took advantage two rucks later, shrugging off Pearce and  Anthony Minichiello to score under the posts and take a 10-0 lead for his side 15 minutes before the break.

The Roosters re-took the lead when quick hands from Minichiello and Jennings allowed Nene McDonald to score in the corner with James Maloney's sideline conversion giving the home side a two-point buffer at 12-10 at hafltime. 

The Rooster extended the lead to eight seven minutes after the resumption when Aiden Guerra managed to plant the the ball in the Dragons in-goal despite the attention of three defenders. Guerra appeared to have grounded the ball short of the line with Hayne ruling no try before sending it up to Clark who, after multiple replays, found the ball had grazed the chalk and awarded the try.

Jennings extended the lead in the 63rd minute when he won the race to a James Maloney grubber to notch his second try and extend the lead to a commanding 24-10.

With the match slipping away, the Dragons gave themselves a chance when Marshall turned back the clock with a jinking run to the line to draw closer at 24-16, before a try to Friend from dummy-half put the match away.

A try to Dugan with a minute left on the clock moved the Dragons closer at 30-22 but came too late to have a bearing on the result.