Saturday 21 October 2017 / 01:10 AM

NRL FRIDAY: DON DOUSES DRAGONS, STORM BUST BRONCOS

TITANS 20 d. DRAGONS 10 @ Cbus Super Stadium

Gold Coast Titans kept their faint finals hopes alive with a three-tries-to-one defeat of St George Illawarra Dragons, with cult hero winger Anthony Don bagging a hat-trick for the home side.

THE MATCH: Anthony Don’s 10th-minute opener – showing beautiful fingertip control to rein in an Ashley Taylor cross-field kick despite an early tackle by Jason Nightingale – was bookended by Gareth Widdop penalty goals to leave the scores at 4-all.

But the Titans landed a crucial blow eight minutes out from halftime as slick passing from Taylor, Jarryd Hayne and Konrad Hurrell saw Don scoot in for his second.

The Dragons (and Laurie Daley) were rattled by injuries to NSW duo Tyson Frizell and Josh Dugan, and they fell further behind when a brilliant cut-out ball from Hayne sent Don over for a third meat pie.

The Saints struck back in the 58th minute through Kurt Mann – who was retrenched to the wing after starting at halfback – but the Titans closed out the win with two late penalty goals.

The Titans jumped into a share of 11th for the time being, while the Saints’ third loss in four games sees them backpedal precariously into a midtable logjam.

THE MAN: Don is quickly becoming regarded as one of the NRL’s most reliable finishers and a genuinely valuable winger, his hat-trick taking his 2017 tally to eight tries in 12 games – and his career record to 48 touchdowns in 78 appearances.

THE MOMENT: Aside from the implications for the Blues ahead of the Origin decider, the departure of Frizell and Dugan in quick succession early in the second half could prove disastrous for a flagging Dragons side already missing star front-rower Paul Vaughan. They have a well-timed bye next week, but will be desperate to have their full quota back ahead of subsequent clashes with the Raiders and Sea Eagles.

STORM 42 d. BRONCOS 12 @ Suncorp Stadium

Melbourne Storm continued their dominance over Brisbane with a comprehensive 30-point drubbing on Friday night – their seventh straight over the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

THE MATCH: The Storm got straight to work as Suliasi Vunivalu dived in for a typically acrobatic try after just four minutes, and the score blew out to 14-0 in almost even time as Josh Addo-Carr and Curtis Scott crossed.

A powerhouse solo effort from recalled halfback Ben Hunt put the Broncos on the board, but Vunivalu’s second from a bomb extended the halftime advantage to 20-6 in favour of the visitors.

Tohu Harris’ sin-binning just after halftime gave the Broncos a sniff – David Mead sneaking a try down a short blindside in the 53rd minute – but Scott and Billy Slater put the result beyond doubt at 32-12 with tries before the hour mark.

Cameron Smith dummied his way over and a brilliant intercept from Addo-Carr in the dying seconds to ice an emphatic victory for the competition front-runners.

THE MAN: It’s hard not getting excited about Melbourne’s next generation, and centre Curtis Scott produced another stellar showing after coming into the side late. The 19-year-old, making just his fifth NRL appearance, scored two tries, made three line-breaks, had a try assist and ran for 152 metres (second only to Vunivalu). A godsend during the draining rep period, Scott will be tough for Craig Bellamy to leave out of even a full-strength side.

THE MOMENT: The Broncos’ cause wasn’t aided by the seventh-minute exit of a badly concussed Josh McGuire, on top of the absence of superstar duo Darius Boyd and Anthony Milford, and the late withdrawal of winger Corey Oates. McGuire, arguably the best player in Origin II, was in a bad way and could be in some doubt for the decider with just 12 days to recover.

[YouTube – Mr Hypersonic 25]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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