St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has rubbished critics of his under-fire NRL side despite failing to score in their past two fixtures.
The Dragons face a third successive road trip to Queensland this Saturday when they take on Gold Coast after drawing blanks against North Queensland and Brisbane.
It means McGregor’s men have scored only 40 points – easily the worst in the competition – from their six appearances in 2016.
The Dragons will also be without playmaker Benji Marshall for the clash after the former New Zealand captain was ruled out for a second successive week due to a hamstring injury.
If the Dragons fail to trouble the scoreboard on Saturday, they’ll match Cronulla’s disastrous run from 2014 of three consecutive scoreless matches.
But McGregor is defending his team and accuses critics of having short memories.
“We’ve lost two games, we had our best season last year in making the finals for the first time in four years and we’ve played against the premiers and runners up,” he said.
“We executed quite well at times, we just didn’t finish sides off. When you play against good teams you need to do that.”
Titans coach Neil Henry, who was given a boost on match eve with playmaker Tyrone Roberts set to return from a knee injury, agreed with McGregor.
He says the Dragons’ pointless run could easily have turned out differently.
“If you look at both games, there was some errors – dropping the ball with the line open a couple of times, held up over the line a few times – there could have been a number of tries in both of their last two games,” he said.
“We certainly need to start better than we have been because we’ve been conceding too many points early.”
While Roberts is set to come in at rookie five-eighth Cameron Cullen’s expense, representative back-rower Greg Bird is suspended.
Eddy Pettybourne is likely to be Bird’s replacement in the match-day squad and Henry is challenging his pack to step up in the NSW State of Origin star’s absence.
“A few guys are looking for a bit of form in the forwards so I’m confident we can step up and fill the breach,” he said.
KEY MATCH STATS – Gold Coast v St George Illawarra
* At the same point in 2015, the Dragons had scored 86 points and conceded 64. In 2016, they have scored half as many points (40) and conceded exactly twice as many (128).
* It’s the worst points haul after first six matches in a season since Wests Magpies in 1989 (38).
* Gold Coast have won just five of 15 matches against the Dragons, but two of those wins have been in their past three encounters at Robina.