Dragons slay Wests Tigers to keep finals hope alive

Dragons fullback Jason Nightingale celebrates with Kiwi mate and league returnee Benji Marshall after scoring a try against the Tigers. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Dragons fullback Jason Nightingale celebrates with Kiwi mate and league returnee Benji Marshall after scoring a try against the Tigers. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Benji Marshall went head to head with the young Wests Tigers talent he had mentored, but it was English international Gareth Widdop who stole the show at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.

Widdop produced a one-man show, scoring two tries, and had a hand in several others in a 28-12 victory which kept the Dragons' finals hopes alive.

The win pitches the Dragons into a six-team logjam on 22 competition points in 10th place, ahead of their Saturday match with a Roosters side still smarting from a shock loss to a depleted Knights outfit on Friday night.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor said that with Marshall under obvious pressure against his former club, he had urged Widdop to lift, despite carrying illness into the game.

"Gareth had one of his better games of the past month and you could tell it was coming," McGregor said.

"We had a chat about how he was going to go to the game rather than let the game go to him, because there was a lot of emotion around what Benji was doing.

"The important thing is there's two of them, there's a six and a seven, and he needs to take control when Benji's under pressure.

"We had blokes sitting over a bucket of Vicks before the game and he was one of them.

"The heat and the way the game was played probably took it out of him, so it was a credit to him to push through that and have that performance as a senior player."

Marshall's return was overshadowed for the Tigers after reports that the match would be coach Mick Potter's last in charge - the board was set to terminate his contract after the match.

The drama appeared to take its toll early on, as the Dragons, spearheaded by Widdop, ran in four first-half tries to lead 22-0 at half-time.

And the Tigers' young stars Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses had little impact.

Tigers skipper Robbie Farah confirmed this after the game, saying he and Potter had discussed the matter before kick-off.

"It affected me but we've got to be stronger than that. As leaders, myself and Mick are leading the group and we can't let it affect us.

"As a playing group we've tried to block it out but obviously it's pretty difficult."

But afterwards Farah also refuted claims that he was behind the push to oust Potter.

"I don't have to sit here and justify me and Mick's relationship," he said.

"We've got a job to do leading this club and we're doing the best we can.

"Mick's got the support of the whole playing group and will continue to have the support of the entire playing group.

"It's never been an issue. Mick knows that the players know that and we've got to get on with business.

"Unfortunately today we didn't get the job done but nothing changes for us.

"Mick's got a job coaching the team and we've got a job playing footy and that's what we're trying to do."

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