DRAGONS 14 SHARKS 12
While a parochial WIN Stadium crowd is expected to make plenty of noise when the Dragons host the Broncos on Friday, the silence of preseason critics will be deafening.
Both teams entered the 2014 season on the back of preseason floggings and with coaches Steve Price and Anthony Griffin both at short odds in ‘‘first coach to be sacked’’ betting.
Barely a month after a Charity Shield mauling at the hands of the Rabbitohs, the Dragons are leading the competition on the back of three successive wins and have left critics wiping egg from their faces.
The naysayers were also howling loudly at Red Hill after the Broncos suffered a 48-4 trial loss to the New Zealand Warriors, but they’ve gone quiet after upset wins over the Bulldogs and Cowboys in the first two rounds.
The Broncos also came within two minutes of a massive upset win over defending premiers the Roosters last week and promise to provide the Dragons their toughest test so far this season.
Dragons lock Trent Merrin said his side plans to continue to rub critics’ noses in it.
‘‘I think everyone bought into that Charity Shield like it was a grand final,’’ he said.
‘‘Everyone was writing us off and everyone does.
‘‘We didn’t get the result there [Charity Shield] but we didn’t buy too much into it.
‘‘We knew and trusted the structure that we had in the club and we’ve taken it out there and taken the monkey off our back for the first three rounds.’’
‘‘We’ve closed a few mouths and we’re just putting the performances out on the field.’’
The Dragons produced plenty of razzle dazzle in racking up 75 points in the first two rounds but were made to win ugly by a determined Sharks on Saturday.
Merrin said the tough 14-12 win was just what his side needed as the Dragons prepare to face the Broncos, Rabbitohs and Storm.
‘‘I’m happy we had a game like that,’’ Merrin said.
‘‘We knew it wasn’t going to be a high-scoring game.
‘‘They’re always tough the local derbies and they’re the type of games us boys get up for.
‘‘Those tough grinds get a lot of faith back into the boys that we’re able to push through and get the win at the end.’’
The Brisbane Broncos have won their past six games against the Dragons and Merrin said his side would need to lift if they want to continue their unbeaten start to the season.
‘‘They’re always a tough team the Broncos,’’ Merrin said.
‘‘They’re a club that always goes well and they always bring their A-game,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s great that we’re at home, it’s going to be a tough one like it was against the Sharks, so we’ll have to do our homework on them this week.’’
THE VERDICT: The place dubbed God’s Country produced conditions more akin to Hell but, after producing 75 points in their first two NRL starts, the Dragons proved they can still win ugly.
THE MOMENT: After notching his 100th NRL try after just four minutes Brett Morris leapt into the stratosphere to pull down a Gareth Widdop kick and somehow plant the ball inside the chalk for his 101st - and possibly best ever - try on the stroke of half-time.
THE QUOTE: ‘‘It’s going to be hard to beat ... the athleticism, the height and just the awareness to be able to put it on the inside of that white stripe. Special people do that and he’s a special player.’’ - Steve Price on whether Morris’s try will be the try of the year.