Ben Hunt boldly declared that the Dragons wouldn’t finish with the wooden spoon this year, and he might just be right after the Red V recovered from a horror start to beat the Titans 32-18 thanks to a special performance from Tyrell Sloan.
It’s a bit early for their fans to purchase grand final tickets, but the Dragons will head into round three inside the top four where they’ll face fellow fast-starters the Broncos in what suddenly shapes as a super Saturday special.
It looked for the opening 30 minutes that the dire pre-season predictions were justified as the Titans raced out to a 12-2 lead on the road, but the injection of Jacob Liddle and some moments of magic from a couple of stars flipped the script.
Having spent the bulk of the season in reserve grade last year, it was fitting that a more confident Sloan provided the spark when he burst through from dummy-half and set up Liddle for his side’s first four-pointer.
It was the first of four tries in a stunning 14-minute surge which had the small Sunday night crowd dreaming of what might be on the first Sunday in October.
Sloan still has issues under the high ball but his raw talent could ironically be the thing that saves Anthony Griffin’s job after the Dragons coach refused to play him for much of 2022.
Veteran halfback Ben Hunt was outstanding last year and that form has continued into 2023 to the extent that they’ll be in every contest while he’s on the park.
Hunt was involved in just about everything on Sunday night, scoring his side’s second try and setting up another, although he played no part in Blake Lawrie’s second career four-pointer.
He now has the chance to make a real statement against his former side as he and Anthony Griffin plot revenge against the high-flying Broncos up north.
There are a few things that frustrate coaches beyond belief, and number one on that list has to be failing to find touch from a penalty.
It was bad enough that Tanah Boyd did it once in the first half, but the fact he did it again early in the second half when he bizarrely decided to kick into the teeth of a strong breeze was simply inexcusable.
The shocking error proved to be a major turning point in the contest because Hunt weaved his magic to produce a peach of a pass to set up Sloan for a try that gave the Red V a 10-point cushion.
Things got worse for the halfback just two minutes later when his short line dropout didn’t go 10 metres, allowing the Dragons to extend their lead to 24-12, while he sent another kick sailing out on the full to cap a shocking second half.
It was a disappointing collapse by a Titans side that looked the real deal after two early tries, but they offered very little after that with their win against the Tigers suddenly looking like shaky form ahead of next week’s game against the Storm.