Latrell underwhelms on return but Lomax underlines Origin case as Dragons defeat sodden Souths


South Sydney’s horror streak shows no sign of abating after a comfortable 28-14 defeat to a resurgent St George Illawarra at Kogarah Oval.

One set, midway through the second half, was the whole game. The Dragons pinned Souths onto their line, kept them there for four tackles and were rewarded with an error from Keaon Koloamatangi.

St George Illawarra forced a penalty, kicked the goal and edged further in front.

Zac Lomax slotted it, along with a two-point field goal, a try, another penalty and two conversions to further underline his case to Michael Maguire for a spot in Origin, either on the wing or as a centre.

Play was always going to be dictated by the conditions, which started wet and ended sodden.

Shane Flanagan loves his sides to play tough and straight and will have greatly enjoyed this. He might have been the only one, given the poor standard of the game, but won’t care one jot.

His side scored four tries, three off kicks, in a game with just three line breaks and nine offloads. Scintillating rugby league can wait for another day.

Interim Souths coach Ben Hornby can be proud of his side’s effort, not least the way they kept the Dragons out in the first half amid extended periods of pressure in the period when the rain was least intrusive.

He got Latrell Mitchell back on deck after a three-week suspension, but his superstar was limited to bit part interventions and, by the end, looked gassed.

The fullback twice missed simple kicks into the in-goal: one he got away with, but a second, late on, he batted straight to Jack de Belin for an easy try.

Ironically he scored twice and set up another, but all that wasn’t a fair representation of his performance.

Flannoball wins the day

The Bunnies have been much maligned for their defence, but got plenty of opportunity to practice here with the Dragons monopolising field position before the break.

It was a minor miracle that the score was only 12-6 at the break – including a monster two-point field goal from Lomax – and even more so that one of the two tries, the winger’s opener, was from a kick.

For a defence that has looked very shaky at times, this was an above average showing.

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Then again, the Dragons gave them a hand. Mikaele Ravalawa dropped the ball with the line begging was the worst offender, but there were plenty more.

Once Lomax had slotted the field goal and then added a penalty goal within two minutes of the resumption, it was clear that Flanagan’s plan was going to be to play the scoreboard and force Souths to come back.

Zac Lomax continues his red hot start to the year. Is a Blues jersey calling his name?

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Time was that would have been a risky strategy: the Bunnies could pile on points quickly and the Dragons could be relied upon for a collapse. This year, however, things are very different indeed.

In many ways this was the archetype for what Flanagan is trying to do with the 2024 Dragons.

The cart was resolutely before the horse. It was extra solid, remarkably unspectacular. It’ll beat bad teams, especially in bad weather. Flanno will love it.

Latrell’s underwhelming return

All eyes are inevitably on Mitchell, but on the day he returned after a month out, during which the coach was sacked and his side lost three straight, the spotlight was always going to be extra bright.

The question, as it has so often been this year, centred on how involved the fullback would be.

Latrell opened the scoring for his side midway through the first half, touching down a Cody Walker kick, but beyond that, he largely failed to get his hands on the footy.

Instead, his role was more defensive, keeping the line together and taking endless dropouts.

In the second half, however, he launched into life to get Izaac Tu’itupou Thompson over in the corner and made some trademark runs.


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It’s times like this that Souths need to find the best from their best.

Though he scored twice and set up the Bunnies’ only other try, it was an underwhelming performance in keeping with many of his this year: flashes of great, lots of mediocre.

Rugby league is fundamentally weak sport, meaning it doesn’t matter that much if Mitchell, Walker and Jack Wighton are there if guys like Gehamat Shibasaki and Michael Chee Kam are making up the rest of your backline.

In a tight game, in slippery conditions, against a fellow struggler, however, the moments that your best players can exploit can be the difference. Souths badly missed theirs.

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