Dragons coach Steve Price provided a stinging rebuke of his side’s meek Mother’s Day capitulation to the Bulldogs, slamming their performance as ‘‘very soft’’ as the axe hovers over several under-performing players.
The usually reserved Price took all of a few words to deliver his appraisal on St George Illawarra’s insipid effort as the Dragons’ season threatens to spiral out of control.
The early competition leaders will fall as low as 13th if next week’s opponent, Parramatta, can beat the Sharks on Monday.
‘‘Very soft performance,’’ Price said after the table-topping Bulldogs ambled to a 38-6 win at ANZ Stadium on Sunday. ‘‘There was no excuse for that... it was soft.
‘‘We’re about being brutally honest as a coaching group and a playing group. I’m not a bloke to mince my words and I know we’re definitely much better than that.
‘‘We’re a proud footy club and I know what type of playing group we’ve got and we’re much better than what we dished up today. That’s what really annoys me.’’
Despite only inking Benji Marshall to a deal 48 hours earlier for his rugby league second coming, the temptation to rush him into the squad must be increasing by the day.
The NRL is expected to rubber stamp Marshall’s contract this week, potentially paving the way for him to slot into the halves, most likely at Sam Williams’s expense. The former Tiger, somewhat fortuitously, elected to dodge the mauling in person on Sunday.
His viewing wouldn’t have been comfortable from his living room as Williams, playing behind a badly beaten forward pack, could provide only one telling contribution.
Unfortunately for him it was only for Josh Reynolds to snaffle an errant pass and race 90 metres downfield to score late in the second half.
Quizzed on whether he would rush Marshall straight into the Dragons fold, Price said: ‘‘That’s irrelevant. I’ll worry about that on Tuesday.’’
A clinical Bulldogs chalked up their sixth straight win as centre Tim Lafai grabbed a hat-trick of tries within 20 minutes either side of half-time.
His third, when he brushed past a number of ineffective Dragon efforts close to the line, perhaps summed up the difference in attitude between the sides.
St George Illawarra have lost five of their past six matches, while the 32-point hiding was the joint venture’s largest ever loss to the Bulldogs.
Opting to field a smaller and mobile pack this year, St George Illawarra were steamrolled by the Bulldogs behemoths in the first 40 minutes en route to a 22-0 half-time score.
‘‘There’s no point sugar-coating it, is there? The performance wasn’t good enough by the team,’’ Dragons skipper Ben Creagh said.
‘‘We dug a hole in the first half and we kept digging.’’
Added prop Dan Hunt: ‘‘No intent, no want and no energy from the start. We’ve been getting written off all year and we wanted to come out today and have a good crack against these guys because they’re a good forward pack. To dish up that is very tough to swallow.
‘‘I just think we need to take them head on through the middle and if we get beat we get beat.’’
Price said he will have to ‘‘make some calls’’ on several positions.
St George Illawarra’s NSW Cup side, the Illawarra Cutters, are flying high in second spot.
‘‘It’s a pretty simple game rugby league; it’s about working hard and sticking by your mate and by the group and pulling through the tough times,’’ Price said.
‘‘It’s pretty congested on that ladder but we know we’re a much better football team than what we showed today.’’
The equation is far easier for Bulldogs coach Des Hasler who didn’t deviate too far from his usual script.
The Bulldogs are now outright competition leaders.
‘‘We can’t get ahead of ourselves. The Roosters are coming good, Souths are coming good, Melbourne are coming good,’’ he said.
The Bulldogs’ State Of Origin contingent is likely to be minimal with Hasler tipping only centre Josh Morris and five-eighth Josh Reynolds to get the NSW nod.
CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS 38 (Tim Lafai 3, Sam Perrett, Tony Williams, Greg Eastwood, Josh Reynolds tries; Trent Hodkinson 5 goals) ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 6 (Brett Morris try, Gareth Widdop goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 21,077.