THE St George Illawarra Dragons' slim finals hopes are done and dusted after conceding two tries in the final four minutes to go down 14-10 to the Titans, headlined by Kiama's Mitch Rein, at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Friday night.
The Dragons, featuring Shellharbour's Euan Aitken and Trent Merrin, Albion Park-Oak Flats' Adam Clune and Gerringong's Jackson Ford, looked in control when Zac Lomax's second penalty goal gave them a six-point cushion with nine minutes to play before tries to Tyrone Peachey and Jamal Fogarty in consecutive sets saw the visitors overturn a 10-4 deficit and claim just their fifth win of the season.
It saw the Dragons fall short of three consecutive wins for the first time since round six last year and put a line through their finals prospects in permanent ink.
It was an endorsement of the Titans' move to extend the contract of coach Justin Holbrook, a former Milton-Ulladulla Bulldog, until the end of 2024 this week, with his side pulling off the miraculous despite a lack of possession that saw them make a hundred more tackles than their opposition.
The late fade stung for interim coach Dean Young, who's made competing for 80 minutes his key marker since taking the top job a fortnight ago.
"It pisses me off because I know they're trying, but you don't get two points for trying in this game," Young said.
"The players are certainly buying into what were trying to do, I've asked them to compete for the full 80 minutes and I've asked them to be disciplined. I think everyone can see we've competed pretty hard the last three weeks.
"Our discipline was good, we only gave away four penalties and we completed at 92 per cent but we come up with three focus points each week. Against Brisbane we got one of the three and we scraped home, on Friday we got zero out of three and we got pipped at the end.
"The points were knowing where [AJ] Brimson is at all times, having our d line connected and defending their kicks. They got a try off a kick and Brimson made two line breaks.
"You've got to get your job done. They're or all capable of doing their job and, in the end, we didn't get our jobs done. That's why we're sitting down there pretty shattered and that's why the Titans are singing the team song."
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The markings from a previous A-League fixture were still on the turf and fans at Jubilee Oval could've been forgiven for thinking they'd stumbled into a soccer match when the Dragons led just 2-0 at halftime on the back of a penalty goal from Lomax.
The Dragons were first to strike after the break, with Jacob Host crossing from close range six minutes after the resumption.
An error in the ensuing set from Jackson Ford opened the door for the hit back that came through Phillip Sami, who crossed out wide. Fogarty's sideline conversion attempt was waved away, keeping the margin at four.
The Dragons steadied through Lomax, who was taken out by Keegan Hipgrave in pursuit of a Corey Norman bomb, and nailed the subsequent penalty goal with nine minutes left.
The Titans weren't done yet, with a grubber from Fogarty hitting the upright and bouncing up beautifully for Peachey to score next to the posts after being rubber-stamped by the bunker.
Fogarty nailed the extras to level the scores at 10-all with four minutes to play. With golden-point looming, it was Brimson who made the telling play, busting into the clear in the next set off an inside ball from Ash Taylor, and finding Fogarty in support for the match-winner.