The iSelect Gold Coast Titans, down eight forwards who have played NRL this season, produced one of their worst performances of the season, going down to a Dragons side 34-6 at WIN Jubilee Stadium.
The Titans squandered far too much possession, completing at just 50 per cent in the first half and keeping the ball for only 20 of 34 sets, ensuring they had to make almost 100 tackles more than their opponents.
They were behind 16-0 at half-time and 34-0 with 20 minutes remaining against a Dragons side desperate for a big win to keep some hope of playing finals football.
Coach Neil Henry said succinctly “we played like a team that had two games to go and it’s all over, which is disappointing considering the milestones we had to celebrate today.”
“As I told the boys in the sheds that was just not a first grade performance no matter who is on the park; we didn’t match their intensity early and paid the price,” Henry said.
“At 16-0 at half-time I thought we were a chance but we started the second half like we did the first; we couldn’t get out of our half and it took its toll.”
“You can turn up and get beat and games and deal with it, but to play as poorly as we did today?,” lamented skipper Greg Bird. “There have been games when we lacked consistency but played well in patches but I thought we were pretty average all over the park today.”
The Titans had just 42 per cent of possession which saw them do far too much defensive work. Luke Bailey topped the count with 45 with halfback Daniel Mortimer second with 37. Wingers Anthony Don and Kalifa Faifai Loa were among the Titans’ best as they worked hard from their own end.
They completed just eight of 16 sets in the first half and had to make 50 tackles more than the Dragons.
They were behind 16-0 after conceding three tries in the first 19 minutes but we able to keep the Dragons scoreless for the rest of the half.
Benji Marshall scored first for the home side after Trent Merrin offloaded in a tackle 10 metres out to Marshall behind him and suddenly open space was in front of him and he ran over untouched.
Brett Morris made it 10-0 after he latched onto a blind Daniel Mortimer pass 10m from the Dragons line when the Titans had their best attacking chance after a good break by Paul Carter. Morris ran 90m with James Roberts and William Zillman in pursuit.
Just four minutes later Jason Nightingale was over after a movement again started by a Merrin offload. The ball went to Marshall who threw it out the back to Josh Dugan who fell over but got up, gathered the ball and put Nightingale in for a try that was too easy to come by. Widdop goaled for 16-0.
A massive improvement in purpose with the ball was needed for the Titans to get back into the match but it just didn’t come.
From the 50th to 60th minutes the Dragons scored three tries – the first after a Gareth Widdop kick on the last went backwards but Dugan was able to gather the ball unopposed and stroll over from 10 metres; the next went to Gerard Beale after Aidan Sezer took a Marshall dummy and the third was scored by Joel Thompson who ran a simple straight line onto a Widdop pass near the line.
It was 34-0 with 20 minutes still remaining and the milestone matches for Bird (200th NRL match), Luke Bailey (150th game for the Titans) and Mortimer (100 NRL appearances) left little to celebrate.
Anthony Don, who did little wrong in a tough match, scored a consolation try 13 minutes from the end after Mortimer offloaded near Saints’ line to Zillman who sent an overhead pass to the unmarked Don. Sezer brilliantly converted from the right touchline.
Dragons 34 (Marshall, Morris, Nightingale, Dugan, Beale, Thompson tries; Widdop 5 goals) beat iSelect Titans 6 (Don try; Sezer goal) at WIN Jubilee Stadium. Crowd: 9584.