St George Illawarra have got themselves back into the winner's circle after a tough 19-18 win against the Gold Coast Titans in front of 12,189 fans at Robina.
In a contest between two sides, who after the mid-way point of 2014 season, found themselves in the wrong part of the ladder. It was a willing contest that lent itself to moments of individual brilliance, as they battled away from the depths of the National Rugby League ladder.
A month into his return to the National Rugby League (NRL), Benji Marshall has enjoyed a turbulent second act to his career. From being jeered at Parramatta to his maestro performance against the lowly Sharks. Marshall was key to the Dragons fortunes today. The halfback having a hand in the opening two tries.
The first, was some good link play between Marshall and Widdop, a combination that has stuttered in the last few weeks. Marshall's pass though, was on point to Leeson Ah Mau, who strode through the line, diving in for a rare four pointer for himself and more importantly, for a Dragons side, who started brightly.
One good thing, one bad for the former New Zealand representative. The bright start the Dragons enjoyed, was quickly curbed when after a break down the left. Benji trying to Marshall the winger down the right with the overlap, only found Gold Coast winger, Kevin Gordon with his cut-out to bring us back to 6-all.
After the bright start, the Dragons faded once again in the latter stages of a half. Gold Coast who shuffled their side more than a deck of cards before kick-off worked back into the contest. It is a feature of the Cartwright coached side that despite their plummet, they have been in most games that they play.
The mid-week signing of Daniel Mortimer brought some stability to a Gold Coast side, who were besieged by injury to their spine players. Some slick play kept the Titans camped on the Dragons line and they broke the Dragons resolve. Mortimer found an on-rushing Mark Minichiello who rolled over, slamming it down for a 12-6 lead.
Dragons who were noticeably struggling, needed inspiration from their key players. The messiah broke through, with a tattooed hue, Josh Dugan responded in the 31st minute. He beat two defenders with ease before spinning, stepping and crossing the line, to leave us deadlocked at twelve heading into the oranges.
Both teams looked throughout the contest, that they weren't contemplating losing, as they opened their shoulders with more abandon that belied their positions before this afternoon. Despite the industry, neither team would break through, with Gareth Widdop controlling the ruck for the Dragons, placing kicks and passes into space regularly.
The five-eighth who transferred from the Storm to the 'gong this season, found the groove that he lost after the opening month of the NRL competition. He started the interchange of passes for Trent Merrin, who was damaging in all his carries, this time running at open space after a tip-on from Michael Cooper to dive over.
Widdop after the Dragons weren't able to capitialise on the sin-binning of Nate Myles for dissent, calmly worked through the sets, earning drop-outs against a tiring Titans outfit. In the 71st minute, he pulled the trigger on a field goal to put the away side ahead by seven and seemingly on track for the win.
It wouldn't be the Dragons, if they did things easily though. Gold Coast weren't about to turn up their toes and hand the victory to the red-and-whites. Following a well worked short drop-out, they rampaged upfield before Brad Takairangi, wearing the six, playing at centre dummied for Gordon and went himself, reducing it to a one point lead.
The Titans just continue to fight. The effort didn't match the scoreboard though, as needing to go the full length from the restart, spilled it mid-way through the count. The big contingent of St George supporters counted down a victory, a rare commidity in 2014 for them. Next week they head home, to face the defending premiers, Melbourne. Gold Coast have the bye.