The St George Illawarra Dragons have overcome the late send-off of Francis Molo to end a three-match losing streak by downing the Gold Coast Titans by 20 points in Wollongong this afternoon.
With little to play for with both sides eliminated from finals contention, both sides still had points to prove with contract and roster spots up for grabs next season.
It was the home side that got the scoring underway inside the opening five minutes when Zac Lomax flicked it out the back in an unconventional fashion. From there, boom youngster Talatau Amone put it on the boot and won the race to the ball to cross for the opening try. Lomax was unsuccessful with the conversion and it remained a four-point lead. Not to be outdone, the Titans hit back almost immediately when Pat Herbert linked up with Greg Marzhew down the left-hand side before linking up on the inside with AJ Brimson and the Titans hit the lead.
But that would be the end of their scoring for a significant portion of the first half. Tautau Moga used his brute strength to outmuscle Marzhew to reach out and retake the lead for the Dragons. The journeymen thought he had a double in three minutes, but the video referee correctly ruled Moga had put his knee on the sideline and the try was revoked. But, they didn't need to wait long for their third when a good ball from Ben Hunt found Jack Bird who got it onto Cody Ramsey before passing back on the inside to Mathew Feagai to cross for the third.
Four minutes later, Jayden Sullivan strolled over from short range and the Dragons had a sixteen-point lead. Further flashbacks to 2021 occurred this weekend when David Fifita went back to last season and crashed over to score and give his side a chance in this game. Back-to-back penalties late in the half saw Tanah Boyd nail a 30-meter penalty goal to reduce the margin to eight at the half.
That margin would be extended almost immediately after the resumption of play as the Dragons marched right up field and it was the work of Hunt who found Jack Bird racing onto a great pass extending the lead out to twelve points. From there, the Titans slowly worked themselves into the game and crossed for one of the more bizarre and amazing tries this season. The kick was allowed to bounce, Herman Ese'ese got it onto David Fifita who wrestled it onto Brimson who kicked for Marzhew who used his brute strength to get away from three defenders, he found Beau Fermor and the Titans reduced it.
However, a lapse in concentration saw them lose possession and off the ensuing scrum, Amone split Jarrod Wallace (who was defending in the centres for no apparent reason) to cross for his second. But the Titans wouldn't go away and eventually, their attack was rewarded when a short dropout (which is silly enough when you have a 10-point lead) backfired and Jojo Fifita collected an easy try to make the margin four.
Francis Molo was sent off with just a touch under 20 minutes to play after a horrible tackle on Herbert which collected the outside back flush on the jaw. Despite the extra man advantage, the Titans weren't able to convert. However, the Dragons were able to punish the Titans' lack of execution when Moga crossed for his second and Lomax was able to convert to give his side a valuable ten-point lead. That lead was remarkably extended off another error from Fermor when Moga grabbed a hattrick to extend the margin out to fourteen points. At the end of the game, it was a spectacular bomb take from Bird to seal his second try and the Dragons gave their Wollongong fans something to cheer at, sealing an undefeated season in the Gong.