Tough rivals lie in wait for Dragons

RUGBY LEAGUE

If you’d offered St George Illawarra a 3-1 table-topping first month of the season before a ball had been kicked in anger they couldn’t have signed on the dotted line quick enough.

But as ever-consistent Dragons winger Jason Nightingale knows, the real test of their mettle will come in the next month after being delivered a 36-20 ‘‘reality check’’ by the Brisbane Broncos.

Premiership heavyweights Souths and Melbourne lie in wait over the next fortnight, before the Warriors fly across the Tasman to precede the Anzac Day blockbuster against the Roosters.

‘‘That will really show us where we’re at,’’ Nightingale said.

‘‘Playing Souths at the Cricket Ground will be a great occasion and it won’t be hard to get up for and then backing that up into Melbourne in Melbourne ... they’ll really test our character and tell us where we’re at.

‘‘We probably got a reality check [on Friday night] losing to Brisbane and it’s always disappointing to lose in front of your home fans.’’

Despite the Broncos starting fast and finishing even faster against the Dragons in Friday night’s tryfest, St George Illawarra haven’t lost the NRL’s top billing after four rounds.

Melbourne’s harrowing trip across the continent halted their unbeaten start to the season, leaving four sides – including the Broncos and Sea Eagles – on six points after four rounds.

Pressed on whether the Dragons would have taken that start if offered before round one, Nightingale said: ‘‘I suppose, but we won’t be going into round five fresh. Definitely if we could have just trained and someone said we will give you three out of four we probably would have taken it.

‘‘We have been pretty happy with the first three weeks and all wasn’t lost [against the Broncos].’’

St George Illawarra coach Steve Price had a gripe with the performance of referees Gerard Sutton and Gavin Morris in policing the 10-metre defensive line on Friday night.

He refused to paint it as an excuse for the loss and used his post-match press conference to hail the Red V’s ‘‘positive’’ start to 2014.

A major reason for that has been the form of his two international wingers, with Nightingale (two) and Brett Morris bagging all bar one of the Dragons’ tries against the Broncos.

It came only six days after they combined for all of their side’s four-pointers against the Sharks.

Morris, who has already touched down five times in the first four rounds, equalled his father Steve’s 102 top-grade tries with a typically evasive effort against the Broncos.

And Nightingale said the pair would continue to push each other’s games to their limits.

‘‘We feed off each other at training and on the field,’’ he said. ‘‘We have been for a long time now.

‘‘He probably inspires me more than anyone else in the team considering how long we’ve played with each other, being in a similar position and we’re close mates, too.

‘‘I definitely feed off the good things he does and I would like to think he feeds off the good things I do, too.’’

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