For all the discussion about St George Illawarra's revamped attack, it was the human wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo which brought them undone.
It's doubtful, in a parallel universe, that the defensive expertise of Jack de Belin - stood down under the new NRL policy while on rape charges - would have saved the day.
Taumalolo ran for a record tally of 300-odd metres, set-up Te Maire Martin for the game-winning try, made another bust for Javid Bowen's first-half four-pointer and generally proved almost unstoppable for the Dragons.
It ended 24-12.
Martin's radar was off with the goalkicking boot, meaning it was still 12-6 with 14 minutes remaining - three tries to one - when Taumalolo made certain of victory for the Cowboys.
The torrid summer for St George Illawarra continues.
As the rain fell, on a night when they raised money for North Queensland flood victims, Bowen then offered the Dragons late hope with an errant pass over the sideline.
The Dragons had a scrum.
The new bench utility Matt Dufty tried to penetrate a tiring line.
Corey Norman passed to Tariq Sims with the line open with seven minutes left, but it was spilled, despite the NSW State of Origin forward's protest about the ball coming off his knee.
Like the result, it was all in vain.
Michael Morgan, taking the reins from the retired Johnathan Thurston who was watching from the sidelines, allowed Cowboys centre Justin O'Neill to score in the final exchanges.
Morgan, who had scored beforehand, alongside Taumalolo, had made his mark.
Finally, Jordan Pereira dived over with seconds left to lessen the margin.
How do you measure the success or otherwise of Paul McGregor's plans, moving captain Gareth Widdop to fullback and allowing Corey Norman to partner Ben Hunt in the halves?
It was hardly convincing, though it had its moments.
Widdop was committed, tackling Taumalolo when he broke clear, then almost stopping Bowen from scoring in the next play, the video referee confirming the Cowboys winger had just barely grounded the ball as the Widdop cover pushed him out.
Norman kicked the ball out on the full, the ball also went dead in a stuttering ebb and flow to their first half, but yet the Dragons still otherwise looked reasonably sharp with ball in hand.
The jury remains out.
Euan Aitken had opened the scoring for the Dragons when Norman cleaned up the Cowboys' attacking mess and streaked away, only to be caught inside the 40 metres.
Sweeping to the right, Aitken is, as always a sight to behold when he is allowed to run hard and straight.
And yet, for all the encouragement, it was a former Dragons player, Nene Macdonald, who crashed over out wide just before the break to make it 8-6.
Macdonald celebrated with gusto after scoring against his old teammates in his first game for his new club, suggesting it meant a bit.
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