The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 28-26 by the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium, Robina on Sunday.
The Red-and-Whites scored four tries in the loss but it was not enough to secure the two valuable competition points which would have secured a berth in the NRL Finals.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had named an unchanged line-up to that announced midweek and was rewarded for his faith through hooker Mitch Rein in the opening stages of play.
The NSW Country Origin player’s proved too slippery to handle with his spinning-and-twisting outside the Titans in-goal area and ultimately out-maneuvered his marker in the third minute.
Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop converted shortly thereafter to make it 6-0.
The visitors continued pressing-forward and managed to add a further two-points courtesy of the England international after being awarded a penalty in the eighth minute.
Unfortunately, the home side rallied and found space to breach the visitors’ defence through second-rower Ignatius Passi in the 22nd minute.
Titans five-eighth Kane Elgey then converted to make it 8-6.
The visitors had remained undeterred despite the set-back and reasserted their points-buffer through prop Mike Cooper’s sharp barge across the stripe, underneath the posts, in the 26th minute.
Widdop then added the extras to make it 14-6.
The Titans though clawed the deficit back to within four points when second-rower Dave Taylor ploughed his way across the stripe on the half hour mark.
Elgey followed-up with his conversion to make it 14-12.
The Dragons solidified their advantage heading into the interval when halfback Benji Marshall etched his name on to the score sheet after finding space to dive across the line in the 39th minute.
Widdop converted to make it 20-12.
The Titans were the fastest off the mark when second-half play resumed and narrowed the deficit back to within four points for the second time in the match when utility David Mead scored in the 50th minute.
Elgey converted shortly thereafter to make it 20-18.
The flanker went one better to single-handedly prize the lead from the visitors just after the hour mark when he bagged his second try of the encounter, again on the right flank.
Fortunately for the visitors, Widdop managed to gather a loose ball and run nearly the length of the field to reclaim the lead for his team three minutes later.
The England international then added the extras to make it 26-22.
Some poor defending by the visitors on their in-goal line four minutes from time though allowed Taylor to cross for his second try in the 76th minute.
Elgey converted to make it 28-26 in favour of the hosts in the dying stages of the game.
St George Illawarra Dragons 26. Tries: Rein, Cooper, Marshall, Widdop. Goals: Widdop (4/4). Penalty Goal: Widdop (1/1).
Gold Coast Titans 28. Tries: Mead (2), Taylor (2), Paasi. Goals: Elgey (4/5).