The St George Illawarra Dragons might be on a better course than they were 12 months ago as Anthony Griffin approached the axe from the club, but that doesn't mean the club are in a wonderful spot.

Nowhere was that more evident than Thursday night's Round 12 opener against the Canterbury Bulldogs, with the Red V dropping a 12-6 lead at halftime to eventually lose a ridiculous 44-12 against a Canterbury Bulldogs outfit who are showing rapid signs of improvement in their second campaign under Cameron Ciraldo.

The Bulldogs, before Round 12 this year, hadn't scored more than 40 points in a game since mid-2016. The fact that all of those points came virtually during the second half - only a missed conversion stopped it from being a point per minute - shows exactly where the Dragons' head space was during the second stanza.

Granted, it didn't help the Red V at all when Jack Bird went down with what looked like, originally at least, a devastating ankle injury.

NRL Rd 11 - Sharks v Dragons

As it turns out, the injury isn't as bad as first thought, with Bird avoiding a break of the ankle and instead facing likely four to six weeks on the sidelines.

His absence from the park pushed Tom Eisenhuth out to the centres, with the former Melbourne Storm man struggling out wide in the limited occasions he has had to play out there this season.

That's not to say Eisenhuth has been generally poor this season. He has been one of the best for the Red V, and no matter the way his signing might have been questioned, he has proven to be worth every cent of his contract to date.

The Dragons - as mentioned - were leading 12 points to 6 at halftime, but then fell apart.

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Flanagan labelled his team "their own worst enemy" after the contest.

“So bad, you've got to try and laugh about it. Two halves, so different," Flanagan said in his post-game press conference.

“We were really good in the first half. I thought we ran hard, missed three tackles and competed really hard. I thought if we continued to do what we did in the first half, we'd win the football game.

“Credit to them, they did exactly what we did to them in the first half.

“Some of the numbers out of the game, you haven't seen them too often. We only had eight sets, they had 26. Possession killed us.

“Then when we did finally get possession, we turned it over or gave penalties away, so our own worst enemy.”

Unfortunately, the Dragons falling apart under adversity this season has become a bit of an all too common trend.

While the games they have won put the Dragons light years ahead of where most punters had them this early in Shane Flanagan's rebuild, the games they have lost have been as bad as any throughout the tenure of Griffin.

Round 2 was a 38-0 loss to the Dolphins, Round 3 saw a 46-24 defeat at the hands of the North Queensland Cowboys, Round 5 was a 30-10 loss against the Newcastle Knights, Round 8 a 60-10 thrashing at the hands of the Sydney Roosters on Anzac Day, Round 9 against the Sharks 20 points to 10, and now the loss to the Bulldogs.

Whether it be injuries or decisions, almost all of those games have seen the Dragons implode after adversity, unable to defend their line with any menace at all. The only one you could argue they were in the fight without dropping their bundle was the clash against Cronulla.

The loss to the Bulldogs saw the points come after Bird's injury. It was a similar story in Round 5 against the Knights with Bird suffering an injury in horrific conditions.

Round 8 saw the Dragons outplayed from start to finish, but again, Moses Suli being injured and then a decision or two going against them had the Roosters finding it easy to run on points.

In the game against the Cowboys, the Dragons had an early lead and could have extended it to a point they may well never have been run down, only for a ball to be dropped squandering a certain try.

The Cowboys then marched up the other end, scored almost immediately, and that was all she wrote as the Cowboys ran on seven unanswered tries in 40 minutes.

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It's fadeouts like that which have become far too regular of an occurrence for Shane Flanagan's side, and hint at a mental weakness of a team who don't want to rip in and do the hard yards when it gets hard.

Only of a team who are happy playing from the front and putting teams away.

And granted, they have done that well on occasion. Zac Lomax's move to the wing from Flanagan has been a masterstroke, as have the signings of Eisenhuth, Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Kyle Flanagan.

Tyrell Sloan is playing the best - albeit still inconsistent - rugby league of his short career, and with the exception of Blake Lawrie, every forward has gone to a different level this year.

NRL Rd 10 - Titans v Dragons

It is, for the most part, still an exceptionally young team. That clearly means there are going to be lapses, times when things just don't work for the Red V.

Unfortunately, it's happening far too often.

Sort it out though and this could be a side well and truly in the mix for the finals this year, something that was totally unfathomable in the pre-season.

Mental toughness is the toughest thing to fix and get right though, so Flanagan certainly has his work cut out.