Nothing slow about Sloan as speedy fullback fires Dragons past lacklustre Titans

ben hunt, featured, Gold Coast Titans, League, NRL, Rugby League, St George Illawarra Dragons, Tyrell Sloan

After the first half-hour at Kogarah on Sunday night, it looked like St George Illawarra were in for a long season and Anthony Griffin would be lucky to last half of it. 

The last team to play this year after they had the first-up bye and had to wait until the last match of Round 2, they kicked off the clash with the Titans like they were stuck in off-season mode.

Triggered by fullback Tyrell Sloan’s speed and captain Ben Hunt’s all-round class, the Dragons not only reeled in a 12-2 deficit within 10 minutes before the break, they scored three tries to lead by six at the break.

And they carried that momentum through the second half to outclass and outplay an uninspiring Gold Coast outfit 32-18.

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 12: Jack Bird of the Dragons is tackled during the round two NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Gold Coast Titans at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on March 12, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Jack Bird. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Sloan deserves extended shot at fullback

Sloan looked like his confidence was shot at the end of the Charity Shield when Souths opposite number Latrell Mitchell had to cheer him up after the game. 

After being shuffled in and mostly out of the NRL team last year and requesting a release in the off-season, the talented prospect was given first crack at the No.1 jersey with Cody Ramsey (ulcerative colitis) out until 2024. 

He started the clash with the Titans looking indecisive, particularly under the high ball when he allowed a bomb to bounce.

Sometimes you really do need the bounce of the ball to go your way.

And after that potential disaster was averted, he turned the tide for his team when they were trailing 12-0 with a dart out of dummy-half 10 minutes from half-time.

Sloan scooted clear from the defence and set up Jacob Liddle on an unchallenged run to the line to score in the former Wests Tigers hooker’s club debut.

It was not only the shot in the arm Sloan needed but the Dragons started breathing proverbial fire with a gang tackle sending Kieran Foran back into the in-goal area, then Ben Hunt touching down and Mikaele Ravalawa doing likewise just before the half-time siren.

Not the phantom kind that can be heard bellowing into the night sky around Kogarah way. 

And when Hunt had the Gold Coast defence second-guessing and standing back a few minutes after half-time, Sloan surged up from the back to sprint over for a well-deserved try. 

Sloan was dropped after just three rounds last year on the back of a tough night in the wet against the Sharks. 

The 20-year-old is a star of the future so surely this time around, Griffin shows more patience with the former NSW under-18 representative even if the young gun misfires on occasion.

“I thought he was excellent, and that’s exactly what we need him to do,” Griffin said about the break that led to the first try. “It was a great decision by him to put his hand up and want to do that. His whole game was really solid all night.”

Young five-eighth Junior Amone is unlikely to return next Saturday in Brisbane against the Broncos after his no fault stand-down ban was lifted during the week while veteran forward Jack de Belin (calf) is hopeful of being fit.

Griffin said there was no urgency to bring Amone back after he played in the NSW Cup this weekend.

Long off-season finally over for Griffin

Anthony Griffin seemed to be ageing by the day over the summer months after a terrible off-season in which his club was constantly making headlines for the wrong reasons.

It was a long three weeks too at the end after the Charity Shield thumping at the hands of the Rabbitohs and then having the bye in Round 1.

“Everything happens for a reason and we got a lesson against Souths. We had a really good build-up the last two weeks and it showed out there tonight,” he said.

“I thought our first 20 minutes was good but we were just trying to get there too quick with the ball. The hard thing about having the bye is you’re coming in really fresh. You haven’t felt the contact or the rhythm of the game. That was always going to be an issue for us.

“We were a bit brittle in defence and we fed them a bit of ball but once we locked onto the game and got some rhythm and momentum, I thought it was really clinical then for 50 minutes.

“I thought we were the better team all night.”

No excuse for Titans’ collapse 

Gold Coast showed plenty of grit to outlast the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval in Round 1.

They looked like they would build on that after an impressive first half-hour at Kogarah but their defence then went missing.

And after conceding 26 straight points in the next half-hour – bookmarked by the half-time break – they were running sideways in attack, their passing was clunky and their kicking game was woeful. 

“We did a lot of dumb things, put a lot of pressure on the middles,” coach Justin Holbrook said before adding captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui was ill and probably should not have played the game.

Holbrook said hooker Sam Verrills’ shoulder injury was minor and despite not finishing the match, he should be all right for next week.

Gold Coast get to make their first appearance at Cbus Super Stadium next Saturday against Melbourne. If they ever want to start filling that stadium, or even half-filling it, they can’t afford performances like this one.

Finding touch can’t be that hard

When it comes to the fundamentals of rugby league, finding touch from a penalty kick is as basic as it comes.

The Titans failed to do so on two occasions. Once is terrible, twice is inexcusable. 

All the momentum from the penalty vanishes in an instant and should be an attacking set becomes a deflated defensive line. 

“We made it hard for ourselves by getting a lot of those things wrong,” Holbrook said.

Tanah Boyd has done well to leapfrog Toby Sexton and Jayden Campbell to snare a starting halves spot alongside Kieran Foran but he will be sent back to bench utility duties or the Queensland Cup if he performs like this again.

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