Far from being discouraged by Monday’s loss to NRL leaders Manly, star Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop believes their performance is evidence St George Illawarra are on course for a finals berth.
Their resolve will be tested once again when they meet playoff rivals Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, who were red hot in the victory over title contender Canterbury last weekend.
The Dragons right-hand defensive edge was exposed by the wizardry of Daly Cherry-Evans, before second-half tries to Tom Symonds and Jorge Taufua put the result out of reach at Kogarah on Monday night.
But Widdop said the performance convinced the Dragons that they can make the finals and mix it with the top teams when there.
‘‘We gained a lot of confidence that if we stick to our plan and our structure, we can match it with the best,’’ Widdop said.
‘‘The result wasn’t what we wanted but I think in that first half, even though they scored a few quick tries, we played at a high tempo and I thought we were right in it.
‘‘It was 10-8 at half-time, we completed well, we did everything we wanted to do, it’s just disappointing that early in that second half we completed three from eight and gave away five penalties and those are the things we need to get out of our game.
‘‘Manly are a quality team and if you give them that possession they’re going to make you pay but we’ve gained a lot of confidence and momentum over the last few weeks and I think we performed pretty well [on Monday night].
‘‘We just can’t switch off for 10-20 minutes like we did in that second half.’’
Centre Josh Dugan endured perhaps his toughest night since moving into the frontline against the Sea Eagles, but also found plenty of positives in the performance.
‘‘We’ll take a lot out of Manly on Monday and push on into Sunday,’’ Dugan said.
‘‘The Tigers are coming off a good win against the Dogs, who are one of the best teams in the comp.
‘‘They’ve got a young side but they’re a confident side. We’ve just got to turn up and do our job and the rest should fall into place.
‘‘We’re all only 24-25 as well so while we’ve got experience we’re still young, we’re still improving.’’
The Dragons need to win at least four of their last seven matches to make the eight.
‘‘If we get a win this weekend it will certainly boost our confidence going games against the Roosters and Panthers,’’ Dugan said.