Dragons v Titans: Five key points
The Gold Coast Titans put forth one of their best NRL Telstra Premiership performances of the year by putting the St George Illawarra Dragons to the sword in a 32-12 smashing in front of the UOW Jubilee Oval faithful.
Clinical Titans extend Red V's woes
Completing their sets at 85 per cent and conceding just three penalties all game, there's no wonder the Titans were able to put 32 points on the Dragons. Titans coach Neil Henry labelled it a "complete performance" post-game. Up 14-6 at half-time, David Mead's try one minute after the break shattered the Dragons' spirits.
"We had a very good start and I thought we built some pressure really early with a couple of tries," Henry said.
"They wouldn't go away though so at half-time we talked about sticking to what we planned to do and the boys did it – it was a very good win."
Early error very telling for the Dragons
Dragons halfback Josh McCrone kicked the ball out on the full in his side's very first set of the game. The error occurred just 45 seconds in and the consequences went beyond just handing the Titans the ball in good field territory. The Red V wouldn't complete their first set of the game until the 12th minute when the Titans had already posted an 8-0 advantage – a lead that they didn't give up all game.
"We knew going into the game that we needed 50 per cent of possession against the Gold Coast because if they get more than that, their big men and second phase will do a job on you," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.
"That's what they did to us."
Hurrell solid without being outstanding
The Titans' back five all ran for over 120 metres and while mid-season recruit Konrad Hurrell wasn't necessarily a standout, he showed enough to suggest he's only going to do great things on the Gold Coast. Gareth Widdop is still picking up pieces of himself out of the Kogarah surface, with Hurrell making light work of him in the lead up to Anthony Don's late try.
"Konrad's underdone still but he's worked really hard on his fitness in the meantime. I thought we saw what's to be expected of him: powerful running and fast play-the-balls," Henry said.
"He'll be better for the run, I was happy with some of his defensive reads as well. He was nice and strong on the edge."
Dragons' half-spine shows
Josh Dugan's broken jaw and Benji Marshall's continued hamstring woes clearly impacted the Dragons. It was obvious skipper Widdop (two errors, four missed tackles) was trying his best to cover as many responsibilities as possible but it came with its detriments. The Dragons conceded more than 30 points for the second-straight game, with their current troubles extending beyond just missing players.
"We can use that as an excuse but we won't," McGregor said of Marshall and Dugan's injuries.
"They're obviously two very good and important players for us but we won't be blaming that for the loss."
Titans jump the Dragons into top eight
Making the Dragons' night even worse was the fact the Titans leapfrogged them into the NRL Telstra Premiership's top eight. Parramatta's recent woes offered the Dragons the perfect opportunity to consolidate a place in the top half of the competition but now find themselves in 10th spot. With the amazing guidance of halves Tyrone Roberts and Ashley Taylor doing wonders, only wins to the Warriors and a 34-plus point Panthers win over the Eels will remove the Titans from the top eight after Round 19.
"Ash has just stepped up. He's been a part of a good system at the Broncos and he's had a couple of pre-seasons with first grade so he knew what it was about," Henry said of his halfback Taylor.
"But I don't think anyone would've guessed he'd take on the responsibilities so quickly."