Round 7 v Gold Coast Titans
The St George Illawarra Dragons were 19-14 winners over the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium, Robina on Saturday.
The Red-and-Whites scored three tries in hard-fought victory with tries to co-captain Gareth Widdop, Kalifa Faifai Loa and lock Jack de Belin.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had been forced to change the line-up announced midweek as a result of Benji Marshall’s late omission due to an ongoing hamstring strain.
The New Zealand international had failed to overcome the ailment despite training during the week which meant utility Josh McCrone shifted into the halfback role.
Dragons prop Mike Cooper was the only other change in personnel with the England international starting in the forward pack for Russell Packer, who had started from the interchange.
The visitors had not won in two previous attempts north of the state line this season and, even worse, had failed to register a single point.
Yet, leading by example, Widdop managed to put the latter statistic to bed when he ran on to hooker Mitch Rein’s neat ball to score in the eighth minute of play.
The England international converted his own four-pointer soon thereafter to make it 6-0.
Unfortunately, prop Agnatius Paasi burrowed his way over the stripe moments later to put his team back into contention.
Titans halfback Ashley Taylor’s goal soon levelled the scores at 6-all.
The visitors edged their way back into the lead near the midway point of the stanza when Faifai Loa found clear passage to a neat grubber booted by McCrone near the right touch line.
Widdop converted to make it 12-6.
Momentum had remained with the visiting team up until the interval and during that time their lead extended through the pirouetting prowess of de Belin nine minutes from the siren.
Widdop’s conversion had make it 18-6.
The second stanza proved to be a battle of the forwards which saw neither team register points for over twenty minutes of play.
However, this all changed when Titans five-eighth Tyrone Roberts broke the line to claim his team’s second try in the 69th minute.
Taylor converted to make it 18-12.
Fortunately, Widdop managed to put the win beyond doubt with a well-placed field goal three minutes from time.
Roberts converted a penalty in the dying stages of the game to make it 19-14.
St George Illawarra Dragons 19. Tries: Widdop, Faifai Loa, de Belin. Goals: Widdop (3/3). Penalty Goal: Widdop (0/1). Field Goal: Widdop (1/1).
Gold Coast Titans 14. Tries: Paasi, Roberts. Goals: Taylor (2/2). Penalty Goal: Roberts (1/1).