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Roosters dent Dragons’ NRL finals hopes

The day started with a costly breakfast and ended in a costly loss for St George Illawarra, who fell 24-16 to the Sydney Roosters in Wollongong.

Although promising in stages, the Dragons were overcome by the undermanned Roosters, who moved up to fourth spot on the NRL ladder.

The defeat came hours after star Saints prop Paul Vaughan was stood down for the next fortnight by the NRL.

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 long break.

With 15 minutes to play the Dragons were down by six 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.

Frustrated at the loss and the chaos of the day, Dragons coach Paul McGregor was despondent.

“It’s not what you need from one of your senior players and someone who is so important to your footy team,” he said.

“There were patches where we were really good.

“We spoke about catching the ball and that bounce of the ball really changed the game at 16-10.

“They came in hard and both teams were working really hard for each other but that bounce of the ball really broke us there.”

Five-eighth Keary 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, prop Vaughan was busted breaching the NRL’s COVID-19 protocols by grabbing breakfast in a cafe, was ruled out and will now be sidelined for a fortnight.

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 games 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.

Club favourite Mitch Aubusson gave them something to cheer about in the 14th minute when he crossed for a try in his 300th NRL match.

“I loved the game, really enjoyed watching it,” coach Trent Robinson said.

“Lots of fatigue and lots of questions being asked of the guys. It was great to see the boys keep playing footy and go through some struggle, but come out on top.”

However, winger Ryan Hall now holds the record for most NRL games for a starting winger without a try with 11.

For the Dragons, there is concern for second rower Tariq Sims who came off late with a shoulder injury.

It doesn’t get easier next week with the Dragons set to play Parramatta, while the Roosters will face Melbourne.

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