Sloan scores a hat-trick as Dragons whip Titans

Joel Gould |

Dragons fullback Tyrell Sloan has starred in a commanding opening-round win on the Gold Coast.
Dragons fullback Tyrell Sloan has starred in a commanding opening-round win on the Gold Coast.

Shane Flanagan has started his St George Illawarra coaching tenure at the helm of a gutsy and brilliant 28-4 win over Gold Coast, with fullback Tyrell Sloan scoring a hat-trick.

It was a win that had Flanagan’s fingerprints all over it in his first head-coaching gig since 2018 with Cronulla. 

The Dragons defended their tryline for most of the first half with grit and gusto, and made the hosts pay after the break with scintillating attack at Cbus Super Stadium in front of 14,537 fans.

Flanagan has already managed to get the best out of several of the enigmas in his squad – with Sloan, winger Zac Lomax and centre Mosese Suli all superb in career-best displays.

St George Illawarra coach Shane Flanagan.
Shane Flanagan enjoyed a positive start to his attempt to turn around the Dragons. (Jason O’BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS)

The mentor said it was “without doubt” a great way to return to head coaching but added it was all about the players.

“They’ve got to start to believe, and that was a really big step,” Flanagan said.

“The biggest challenge with this group is they start believing what type of team they are.

“All the players have worked their butts off, changed their body shapes and the way they move.

“The way I want to play the game they needed to be fitter, faster, stronger – and they’ve done that.”

On the flip side, new Titans coach Des Hasler has plenty of work to do with a squad that was near perfect with the ball in the first half, before turning into an error-riddled fiasco in the second.

“It wasn’t the start we wanted,” Hasler said.

“It was a game where the two halves were played on huge swings of possession. It was disappointing.

“They came up with some big defensive plays and try-savers. We made too many errors, but it’s only the first game.”

Gold Coast suffered a blow before kick-off with No.6 Kieran Foran a late withdrawal with a hamstring injury.

The Titans lacked polish at the end of their sets, with halves Tom Weaver and Tanah Boyd unable to make the most of a mountain of possession in the first 40 minutes.

The Dragons started on fire, with Sloan scoring in the third minute after a crafty offload by new signing Raymond Faitala-Mariner. 

Weaver, Foran’s replacement, snuck a slick grubberkick in off-the-cuff for speed demon Alofiana Khan-Pereira to swoop in response.

Dragons five-eighth Kyle Flanagan, recruited from Canterbury, made the crucial play in the 47th minute with a classic show and go to slide under the sticks and give his side a 12-4 lead.

It was set up for Sloan at that point and he did not disappoint, chiming into the line with two more tries that showcased his speed and instinct.

Flanagan has found something special in Suli.

The blockbusting centre was sensational with the ball but his defensive plays to snuff out bombs and Titans attacking raids was first class.

Lomax ran for 255 metres, scored a try and roamed around the field with intent and impact in a masterclass display.

Gold Coast received an inspirational performance from captain and prop Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, who played the opening 47 minutes in which he ran for 187m and was a virtual one-man band.

When the skipper left the field the Dragons led 6-4. He came back on in the 68th minute but the game was gone.

AAP