RABBITOHS 38 DRAGONS 20
Dragons coach Steve Price said it will be a case of back to the drawing board this week after his side’s disappointing 38-20 loss to South Sydney in Saturday’s Charity Shield clash.
Scans on Monday will reveal the full extent of the injury suffered by Josh Dugan midway through the second half, but the fitness of his star player is one of several concerns for Price.
Sidelined centre Gerard Beale, who sat out the Shield clash with a jaw complaint, could be one of the options Price uses if Dugan isn’t deemed fit for the season opener.
Livewire utility Adam Quinlan debuted in the No1 jersey for the Dragons last season and is another logical fit.
Perhaps of more concern for Price is how easily Souths opened up a 34-point lead when George Burgess crossed in the 57th minute on the way to a one-sided stoush.
With the exception of a powerhouse display from Leeson Ah Mau on the right edge, the Dragons were outgunned and outmuscled upfront.
‘‘I thought to start the game they were a lot more physical than us and we just couldn’t control that ruck,” Price said.
‘‘As we started to warm into the game I thought we got better, but we’ve got to do that better from the outset.
‘‘There were some positive signs there but in saying that you get confidence through your defence and we’ve got a lot of work to do in that regard to get that ruck ‘d’ [defence] right.
“We’ve still got a bit of work to do but it is a trial and that’s what you play trials for.”
Dragons fans will also be concerned at the impotence of the club’s new-look backline which, despite dominating possession and field position for most of the first half, struggled to cross the stripe.
Jason Nightingale scored midway through the first half to bring the score to 12-4, but the Dragons’ final three tries, including two to substitute centre Peter Mata’utia, came when the match was effectively over.
‘‘We panicked a little bit, we took a number of hit-ups more than we should’ve,” Price said.
“When we got to our points [on the field] quicker we looked quite threatening, but we’ve got to get there a little bit earlier.
‘‘We’ve got two weeks to get it right for the Tigers in round one.’’
The match also did little to solve Price’s selection dilemma at No7.
Sam Williams and Michael Witt both spent time at halfback during the match and showed glimpses of their ability.
Neither put a definitive stamp on the jersey ahead of the round-one opener.
‘‘I’ll sit down with the coaching staff.
‘‘We’ve got two weeks to get that [selection] right,” Price said.
‘‘All guys got an opportunity tonight to put their hand up for round one.
‘‘We’ll go over and watch the video again and make a call [on the halfback] next week.’’
The performance of Quinlan, who scored a try and brought some attacking spark to the Dragons after replacing Dugan, was one of the positives for the Red V and Price indicated the performance may have given the versatile 22-year-old the inside running for the spot should Dugan become unavailable.
‘‘I thought Adam Quinlan ... when he came on was really positive,” Price said.
“I thought what he displayed tonight was really upbeat and positive for us, so I wouldn’t hesitate [to select him], but we’ll just have to wait for the scans [on Dugan].’’