Round 23 of the Telstra Premiership kicked off with an arm-wrestling match-up between the three in a row Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the Parramatta Eels.
St George Illawarra slumped to their lowest ebb in 68 years of top-flight rugby league at Kogarah, flogged 38-0 by arch-rivals Canterbury and with their season in tatters.
Beaten by the Bulldogs to end both their 2015 and 2017 campaigns, Sunday’s blow wasn’t as fatal but left them sixth and with their top-four hopes all but over after spending most the season there.
The scoreline marked both St George and the joint venture’s biggest ever loss at the Red V’s home ground since 1960, while it was Canterbury’s biggest ever win over the merged club.
According to Fox Sports Stats it was also only the third time a Dragons team had been held scoreless at Kogarah, and fans retaliated as such.
Players were booed off at both half and full-time, while a fan lobbed a scarf at a player as they left the ground following the defeat.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor said he couldn’t blame them for being frustrations.
Even worse, Dragons junior Jason Nightingale suffered a dislocated elbow and it’s feared he could miss between four and six weeks, meaning his career could be over if the club don’t find form.
Centre Euan Aitken will also require scans on a hamstring, which might have been torn.
The only way they can now return to the top four there is if they flog Newcastle next week and either Cronulla or South Sydney are well beaten by their bottom-eight opponents.
Their own worst enemies, the Dragons made 14 errors and failed to make a linebreak or force a drop out.
Halfback Ben Hunt also had a day to forget and was at one stage jeered by the home fans when he kicked the ball dead midway through the second half, just a set after he could only get his knee to a last-tackle play.
“He’s a disappointed man like the other guys in the sheds,” McGregor said.
“We’ve been working on a few basics in Ben’s game to try and get him back to his best, but it’s a collective thing, it’s not an individual thing.”
The Dragons were out of the contest midway through the first half when the Bulldogs scored three tries in the space of 10 minutes, including two of promising wing Reimis Smith’s hat-trick.
Former Dragons Brett and Josh Morris both scored, a handy contribution to the Bulldogs’ fourth win in five games.
“The way we’re finishing the season for a number of the young guys are playing some good attractive footy together,” said coach Dean Pay said.
“We can keep building onto that into our pre-season and start next year off with that.”