Wests Tigers bargain buy Daine Laurie shone bright with a top-dollar show as Michael Maguire's first choice spine torched the Dragons.
Laurie changed his stripes with a late-summer move from table-toppers Penrith to land the Tigers No.1 jumper on a deal worth around $150,000 this season.
The 21-year-old produced serious bang for buck in a 34-18 dousing of a disappointing Dragons outfit, celebrating his second-half try with Latrell Mitchell's "kangaroo ears" after laying on another two for his teammates in Indigenous Round.
With a nod to the occasion, James Roberts played his first game as a winger in eight years and finished with his first two tries in Tigers colours, while Adam Doueihi and Luciano Leilua also ran riot down a new-look right-edge.
Match: Wests Tigers v Dragons
Round 12 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Holding it all together though was Laurie.
In commentary ex-Panthers boss Phil Gould told stories of the Coffs Harbour kid he first flew to Sydney off the back of a YouTube highlights reel, and how Laurie "can't drive past a game of football without joining in".
Laurie takes on his old Penrith teammates next week as Maguire confirmed his current Laurie-Moses Mbye-Luke Brooks-Jacob Liddle playmaking spine is as settled as the Tigers playmakers have been over the past 12 months.
"Moses has found himself working really well with Brooksy and Adam's really comfortable in the centres and he's doing a really good job there," Maguire said.
Laurie puts Talau into a hole
"We were able to move Adam in-field when we needed to. One thing about the players is whatever position you get chosen in you go out and perform.
"Young Daine Laurie out the back, he's really coming along. He played a couple of games before he got here and the more experience he has the better he's getting with his connection with his spine.
"You can see him chiming in out the back so he's continually growing. Lids too has played a few games and he's coming on strong now too."
From the outset, Laurie turned Bankwest into his own backyard with the type of attacking prowess his former Penrith side has turned out each undefeated week.
As Jack de Belin prepared on Friday for his first rugby league outing in almost 1000 days – he will turn out for the Dragons NSW Cup side on Saturday – his teammates started as though they were still a day out from kick-off as well.
"The de Belin thing has always been there," coach Anthony Griffin said in dismissing suggestions the back-rower's return again became a distraction.
Jimmy the Jet is back into the team and back scoring tries
"I think we clearly didn't play well enough there tonight and the Tigers were red hot there in the first half. Give them some credit for the football they played.
"Jack de Belin's playing for the first time tomorrow in two and a half years so that's the furthest thing from our minds at the moment.
"We're bitterly disappointed with what we did tonight. We did a lot of good things last week... but tonight we let ourselves down."
Laurie made short work of a lethargic Red V line with a no-look tap-on catching them short and sending Roberts over in the 16th minute.
When David Nofoaluma danced around would-be defender and Laurie streaked up the middle after another break on the edges, on the scoreboard at least it was game over before the half-hour mark.
The Dragons had plenty of field position but did little without until after their halftime oranges.
Talau couldn't handle a cross-field kick from Ben Hunt, with the fumble only requiring a hand from Brayden Williame to make it 18-6.
The rare signs of life in the Red V were put to bed quick smart by a pin-point kick from Doueihi, landing with Alex Seyfarth for a three try advantage once more.
Laurie made it four soon enough with a bullet ball for Talau in the 58th minute.
Wests Tigers left edge comes to life
Another for Roberts came as that right edge continued to profit, before Hunt and Dragons rookie Junior Amone jagged tries once the contest had run its course.
For the Tigers and Laurie, they take on heavyweights Penrith next week at Leichhardt Oval, finally on the rise after the slowest of 2021 starts.
The Dragons though are firmly headed in the opposite direction, now with one win from their last seven games and all eyes on de Belin among several stars still absent from the team sheet.