Dragons cannot explain slaying

Parramatta’s Pauli Pauli celebrates his try in the 36-0 win over the Dragons on Saturday.  GETTY IMAGES

Parramatta’s Pauli Pauli celebrates his try in the 36-0 win over the Dragons on Saturday. GETTY IMAGES

DRAGONS - RUGBY LEAGUE

This time there were no theatrics or headline-grabbing assessments of his players being "soft", just an admission from a puzzled Steve Price he was at a loss to explain his side's insipid form.

"We're training outstanding . . . I just can't put my finger on it at the moment," coach Price mused after the Dragons were belted 36-0 by a resurgent Eels on Saturday afternoon. "If I knew the answer we would be going upwards.

"We need to have a really good hard look at ourselves at the moment. The only way to dig ourselves out of it is to stick together and by working hard - there's no quick fix."

Perhaps this is why the sceptics were guarded after the Dragons scorched to the top of the table after just three rounds. Since Gareth Widdop waved his magic wand over the Dragons in the opening month, St George Illawarra have slumped to six losses in their last seven matches.

Benji Marshall looks dejected after throwing a pass into touch.  GETTY IMAGES

Benji Marshall looks dejected after throwing a pass into touch. GETTY IMAGES

They've been outscored 108-20 in crushing defeats against the Roosters, Bulldogs and Eels, who chalked up their biggest win against the joint venture and also kept a side scoreless for the first time since 2009.

And it's why skipper Ben Creagh says the Dragons have lost "belief".

"You've got to [handle the pressure] playing first grade and I think there's a lack of belief there in the group which is hard to take at the moment," Creagh said. "We need to find something there to get us back because it's not good enough at the moment.

"We trained like geniuses all week and unfortunately we didn't play like that [against Parramatta]. We didn't handle the pressure at times and when you play first grade you've got to handle it."

Benji Marshall's hotly-anticipated St George Illawarra debut fell flat. Parachuted into the Dragons' halfback hot seat barely a week after inking a $1.1 million 2½-year deal, the former New Zealand Test captain couldn't be accused of a lack of effort.

In fact, he was probably guilty of too much effort. He was never going to be an overnight success with the Red V, but being guilty of four errors and the subject of Bronx cheers from rapturous Eels fans near full-time was an underwhelming start.

"I knew the expectation was going to be high, not only from St George Illawarra supporters but from everyone," said Marshall, whose most telling contribution was when he fumbled a miscued Mike Cooper pass for Corey Norman to race 80 metres and score.

None

"I probably let that dictate too much what I was doing out there trying to make the big play every time. Gaz [Widdop] didn't train the first two days of the week, so we didn't get a lot of time to put combinations together.

"There's definitely a lot of promise there and we probably need to regroup with the bye.

"I suppose on the bright side there's definitely plenty of improvement and I feel like I can be good."

He'll have to be if the Dragons are to get anywhere near the Rabbitohs after plotting a turnaround during the bye.

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur will have no such problems during the Eels' rest period.

"We haven't talked about goals and where we want to get to," he said. "Our goal is to get better on a weekly basis and keep working hard, but I think we need to be more ruthless."

Price can only wish his side were so lucky to have the same chance.

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