St George Illawarra needed an inspiration and they found it in captain Gareth Widdop.
The Dragons skipper personally ended his team’s two-game NRL scoring drought with the opening try of their 19-14 victory over Gold Coast at Robina on Saturday.
Widdop’s eighth minute four-pointer was just the start the Dragons – held scoreless in consecutive weeks by North Queensland and Brisbane – needed.
While the Titans swiftly equalised through Agnatius Paasi’s determination, Widdop would go on to set up another try and then clinch the points with a late field goal on his way to a personal 11-point haul.
Without injured halfback Benji Marshall, Widdop’s display was vital for St George, who have now won three of their seven matches.
“He was excellent,” Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.
“The guys have been challenged a little bit and obviously Gareth as our captain, our marquee player, has been challenged the most.
“The only people that didn’t have any doubt were the people who know what Gareth’s like. He works very hard at his game so it was good to see him go out there and play so well.”
Widdop wasn’t the only hero for the Dragons, with NSW State of Origin representative Josh Dugan busy at both ends of the ground.
Dugan clocked up 197 metres from 21 runs and made several key defensive plays, including an ankle tap on David Mead in the second half when the Titans flyer look bound for the tryline.
Widdop himself said the most important thing for the under-fire Dragons was reversing the team’s recent underwhelming form.
“The last few weeks haven’t been good enough,” Widdop said.
“Everyone’s accountable for their job and that’s what we try to do every week.
“Think a lot of boys did that today, which was great. It was just great to get the result and we can build from this now.”
Widdop’s only black mark was being placed on report in the dying stages for a high shot on young Titans halfback Ash Taylor.
While Taylor did walk off the field after extensive medical attention, he will undergo monitoring throughout the week for concussion.
The game took a heavy toll on the Titans with prop Ryan James forced to play 80 minutes after Eddy Pettybourne broke a finger within minutes of coming off the interchange bench.
Utility Dan Mortimer injured a hamstring while Leivaha Pulu was forced to finish the match despite a rib cartilage problem.
James was also placed on report in the first half for a crusher tackle on Dugan.
“We went away a little bit from what we wanted to do,” Titans coach Neil Henry said.
“Our bench was depleted … we were really quite light on.”
The Dragons also lost a man early with centre Euan Aitken failing to feature in the second half with a hamstring injury.