St George Illawarra let slip a golden opportunity to narrow the gap at the top of the table after falling to a 16-2 loss to Canterbury on Monday.
The best attack in the competition heading into the round were held tryless for the first time this season as the Bulldogs ran out deserved 14-point winners at ANZ Stadium, with St George Illawarra missing the chance to jump into equal second.
The Dragons had to withstand a mountain of Canterbury possession in the opening stages, with the Bulldogs enjoying eight of the first 10 sets of the game mostly camped on St George Illawarra’s line.
The hosts should have opened the scoring through Brett Morris, but the NSW winger dropped the ball with the line wide open.
St George Illawarra took the lead midway through the first half through a Gareth Widdop penalty goal after Jason Nightingale was run off the ball chasing through a high Widdop kick.
The Dragons wrestled back momentum as the half went on and went close to scoring twice, firstly when Nightingale dropped the ball just short of the line before Josh Dugan did the same five minutes before the break.
It was then that Dugan was removed for a head-injury assessment from an earlier incident where he appeared to be tackled high by Josh Morris and lay prone momentarily.
The NSW representative was unhappy about being removed and waved on the home fans who were giving him stick as he made his way down the tunnel.
The Bulldogs went close just before half-time through Marcelo Montoya only for Nightingale and Kurt Mann to combine to bundle him into touch.
It took Canterbury 13 minutes after the break to finally score the first try – and break their own duck of 187 minutes without a try – when Josh Morris benefited from St George Illawarra failing to deal with a kick.
Michael Lichaa all but sealed the result 11 minutes from full-time when he dived over untouched from dummy-half before Montoya removed any doubt with a late try of his own.
To add insult to injury, Dragons centre Taane Milne was sent to the sin bin in the final minutes after lashing out at Josh Morris.
St George Illawarra will need to regroup quickly before they take on Parramatta at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
Canterbury Bulldogs 16 (Josh Morris, Michael Lichaa, Marcelo Montoya tries. Moses Mbye two goals)
St George Illawarra Dragons 2 (Gareth Widdop goal)
at ANZ Stadium
Leader man of the match: Josh Morris (Bulldogs)
Dragons’ next three: Eels (away), Knights (home), Titans (away)