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'Something we've got to look at': Flanagan could swing axe after Cowboys stick 42 unanswered points on sorry Dragons

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23rd March, 2024
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Shane Flanagan has been given a fresh glimpse at the scale of the job at St George Illawarra after the Dragons dished up a Jekyll and Hyde performance in a disappointing home defeat to the Cowboys. 

In their first home game of the NRL season at Kogarah, the Dragons suffered a 46-24 loss, conceding 42 points in succession after leading 18-4 after 20 minutes.

The defeat follows a roller-coaster start to Flanagan’s reign at the Red V.

A 28-4 thumping of the Gold Coast in round one hinted brighter times were ahead, but the fact the Dragons backed that up with a 38-0 away loss to the Dolphins showed there remains significant work to do. 

Flanagan, whose side host Manly next week, said he may be forced to shake things up. 

“That’s something I’ve got to look at,” Flanagan said. “I gave an opportunity (for the players) to have a right of reply. Did we reply? For 40 minutes I’d say we did.

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“The second 40 minutes we didn’t.

“It’s something we’ve got to look at as a club, but I’ve also got to trust this group to improve.

“That’s where I’ve got to do my job. We’ll keep chipping away, working hard in the week because there’s a football side there.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Reuben Cotter of the Cowboys is tackled during the round three NRL match between St George Illawarra Dragons and North Queensland Cowboys at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on March 23, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Reuben Cotter is tackled. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The opening 40 minutes on Saturday was a peek behind the curtain of the potential and, more pressingly, the problems facing the new Dragons coach.

After North Queensland winger Murray Taulagi opened the scoring inside five minutes, the Red V went on a rampage, playing with abandon that left Cowboys defenders grasping at air and had the home crowd on their feet. 

In the space of 10 minutes, the Dragons posted 18 points, with want-away winger Zac Lomax scoring their first try before converting his own effort and those of Tyrell Sloan and Kyle Flanagan.

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The Dragons could have had another were it not for back-rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner dropping an in-goal grubber cold in the 24th minute when they were leading 18-4. 

From there Shane Flanagan’s players displayed all the shortcomings that show why this team will not be in an overnight fix ahead of next week’s meeting with Manly.

Debutant Jesse Marschke was put on report after whacking Chad Townsend high, which gave the Cowboys the platform to send Sam McIntyre over.

Then, Sloan failed to clean up a grubber to the in-goal and powerful North Queensland prop Griffin Neame was on hand to dot the ball down. 

On the stroke of halftime, the mercurial Scott Drinkwater crossed and the Cowboys had a 22-18 lead. 

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The Dragons had a gilt-edged chance to put themselves back on top when they broke down the left and Kyle Flanagan inexplicably grubber-kicked on rather than pop the ball to a supporting Sloan.   

Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt was trapped in the in-goal and the Queenslanders were able to regather the drop-out, head up the other end and score through Kulikefu Finefeuiaki.

Lomax fumbled another kick to the in-goal and the mistake did not go unpunished, Tom Dearden, Valentine Holmes and Chad Townsend all crossing to lay the boot into the Dragons.

In total, St George Illawarra conceded 42 consecutive points without reply.

By the time Lomax went in for a consolation try in the 69th minute, a healthy number of Dragons fans had already voted with their feet and made for the exit. 

with AAP

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