St George Illawarra have revived their NRL finals hopes with a desperately needed 42-16 victory over embattled Gold Coast.
With their season on the line, the Dragons hauled themselves back into the top eight on Saturday with a seven-tries-to-three triumph ver the Titans at UOW Jubilee Oval.
Try-scoring doubles from winger Jason Nightingale, playmaker Kurt Mann and impressive hooker Cameron McInnes and a further four-pointer to Joel Thompson earned the one-time competition leaders just their third win in nine starts.
Gold Coast’s fourth-straight defeat has piled yet more pressure on beleaguered coach Neil Henry, while another lacklustre Jarryd Hayne display is certain to add to speculation around the superstar code-hopper’s future at the Titans.
Despite the Dragons living to fight another day, coach Paul McGregor wasn’t impressed with his side leaking three soft second-half tries after taking a commanding 22-0 lead into the break.
“I thought our first half was probably our best of the year, to be honest, defensively and attack-wise,” McGregor said.
“We were quite comfortable going in with a nice lead and I thought we started the second half aggressively.
“We didn’t have much possession the first six to eight sets and we tried to attack our way out of it instead of getting a nice comfortable grind through our defence.”
McGregor said his side couldn’t afford any such lapses on Friday night in a daunting clash with the second-placed Broncos in Brisbane.
“Our D’s going to have to be good because we’ve seen the last two weeks Brisbane put on – what, 80 points? – on two sides,” he said.
In ending a two-match losing run, St George Illawarra temporarily climbed above Penrith into eighth spot on points differential, ahead of the Panthers’ hosting of North Queensland.
The Dragons face Penrith in a potentially decisive round-25 showdown before finishing the home-and-away season with another must-win contest against Canterbury.