The Dragons have opened their NRLW season with a win, downing newcomers Gold Coast 20-12 in the first leg of Sunday afternoon's triple-header.
Superior kicking and game management was key for the Red V as they dominated field position and their wingers shared three tries.
The fullback duel between fellow Rio 2016 Rugby Sevens gold medallists Emma Tonegato (Dragons) and Evania Pelite (Titans) lit up McDonald Jones Stadium while the Dragons had to overcome a couple of HIAs and the loss of back-rower Talei Holmes to a wrist injury.
Both teams were sloppy early on with plenty of errors but the Dragons began to dominate the grind, creating first-half overlap tries to wingers Teagan Berry and Madison Bartlett.
A pinpoint kick from debutant halfback Rachael Pearson turned the screws early in the second with Berry going over from dummy half for her second in the 43rd minute before the Titans eventually got on the board through Tiana Raftstrand-Smith in the 56th minute.
Teagan Berry dives in for the first try of the new season
Shannon Mato crashed over with five minutes to go to make it a two-point ball game but the Dragons were able to get the ball back from the next set with Quincy Dodd icing the win with a try under the posts.
Match: Dragons v Titans
Round 1 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
The Dragons went winless last season but produced an impressive performance under new coach Jamie Soward to start their new campaign the right way while newcomers Titans can take plenty of positives after a slow start.
- The fullback duel between Emma Tonegato and Evania Pelite was enthralling, which each producing some devastating runs and each registering a try-saving tackle on the other in defence.
- Despite some very experienced players on the field, the Titans were nervy in their first half of NRLW footy with some uncharacteristic errors but warmed their way into things.
- Dragons teammates Keeley Davis and Shaylee Bent were each sent for an HIA after a first-half head clash but each was able to return, while the Dragons managed two tries while the pair were off.
- Debutant halfback Rachael Pearson was excellent for the Dragons, whose superior kicking game was a big factor in the result.
- Tazmin Gray and Jessica Elliston were each placed on report for high tackles.
- Talei Holmes produced a crucial try-saver on Gray on the stroke of half time but was forced from the field in the second half due to a wrist injury.
Play of the Game
After taking an 8-0 lead to half-time the Dragons piled on the pressure early in the second. Kicking on last tackle from just outside her own 40, debutant halfback Rachael Pearson launched the Steeden down into the Titans' back corner. The pinpoin kick sat perfectly just inside the touch-in-goal line and a desperate chase from Jaime Chapman forced Evania Pelite into touch, with the Dragons scoring their third try not long after.
Berry scores her second for the Dragons
What they said
"I was really happy for the girls, that first half we defended really well and the second half we probably learned some lessons. It's the first time the club has won the first round of the competition and only the fourth time the club has won a game. I'm happy for Kez and the girls. This has been six months in the making."
- Dragons coach Jamie Soward.
"I think it's a steep learning curve for the girls. When you give that much footy away in a game you're never going to win. We got close but to be honest, and it's not something most coaches would say, but I'm glad we lost because we didn't deserve to win. We prepared really well and I can guarantee we didn't drop that much footy at training." - Titans coach Jamie Feeney.
Dodd seals the victory for the Dragons
The Dragons take on newcomers Parramatta in the third leg of next Sunday's WIN Stadium triple-header as they look to defeat two expansion clubs in as many weeks. They have a few bumps and bruises to watch with Talei Holmes (wrist) the main concern while Elsie Albert and Shaylee Bent each passed HIAs.
The Titans fill out the second leg of that triple-header against 2023 grand finalists the Roosters as they strive for their first NRLW win at the second attempt. The Titans have two forwards, Tazmin Gray and Jessica Elliston, on report for high tackles.
Raftstrand-Smith scores the Titans first ever try in NRLW