Benji Marshall's St George Illawarra debut turned into a nightmare, but the club's $1.1 million has vowed to improve after Parramatta torched an error-strewn Dragons at on Saturday afternoon.
A Jarryd Hayne-inspired Eels racked up their biggest ever victory over the Red V, thumping Steve Price's besieged side 36-0 in front of a rapturous sell out at Pirtek Stadium.
Parachuted into the halfback hotseat for a desperate Dragons after only three training sessions with his new teammates, Marshall looked a shadow of his former superstar self.
It was a performance from the former New Zealand Test captain not lacking passion, but certainly lacking poise and polish. And it ended in bronx cheers from jubilant Parramatta fans, who mocked Marshall after a final pass arrowed over the sideline.
"I knew the expectation was going to be high - not only from St George Illawarra supporters - but from everyone," Marshall said. "I probably let that dictate too much what I was doing out there trying to make the big play every time.
"I think the biggest part was Gaz [five-eighth Gareth Widdop] and I only had one training session together which probably doesn't help when you're halves. We were sort of playing two different games out there - he was playing his side and I was playing my side.
"I suppose on the bright side there's definitely plenty of improvement and I feel like I can be good [for the Dragons]."
Worryingly Marshall's most telling contribution came when a mishandle from a difficult pass resulted in Corey Norman scorching 80-metres to score in the opening stanza.
From surrendering possession on botched passes, a fumble, one-on-one strip and even an attempted touch finder off a 20-metre re-start, it was part of a first half that had it all for the ex-Tiger.
On the flip side, Hayne eradicated any doubt about who will wear the NSW No 1 jumper after scoring a decisive points victory over frustrated incumbent Josh Dugan. He scored twice in the second half and was a constant menace to the Dragons whenever in possession as the Eels blanked a side for the first time since round 21 in 2009.
It was a further sobering reminder for Dragons fans how far they've fallen from being early season table toppers, plunging to their sixth loss in their last seven matches. They'll be as low as third from bottom if Canberra can upset Penrith at GIO Stadium on Sunday.
"We're training outstanding ... I just can't put my finger on it at the moment," said Price, whose side has been outscored 108-20 in their last three defeats. "We had a pretty simple game plan out there today and we just didn't get out there and implement it.
"If I knew the answer we would be going upwards. The only way to dig ourselves out of it is to stick together and work hard - there's no quick fix."
Ken Sio also bagged a brace for the resurgent Eels, whose revival under Brad Arthur has been extraordinary.
Perhaps a little fortunate to boast a 12-point lead at half-time, the Eels punished a dispirited Dragons in the second half with four unanswered tries.
"Thirty-six points, I am pretty happy with that," coach Brad Arthur said. "It took us a while to find our groove in attack.
"We haven't talked about goals and where we want to get to. Our goal is to get better on a weekly basis and keep working hard, but I think we need to be more ruthless."
St George Illawarra completed at a paltry 51 per cent while committing a whopping 19 errors.
"There's a lot of disappointment in there," Marshall said. "It's a tough way to lose a couple of weeks in a row. For us it's pretty early in the season and we can hopefully turn it around.
"There's definitely a lot of belief in the side, but we're struggling for that confidence at the moment. If we find it we've definitely got a great team to move forwar
PARRAMATTA EELS 36 (Ken Sio 2, Jarryd Hayne 2, Corey Norman, Pauli Pauli tries; Chris Sandow 6 goals) defeated ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 0 at Pirtek Stadium. Referee: Jared Maxwell, Chris James. Crowd: 18,631.
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