Dragons' play-offs destiny out of their control

RUGBY LEAGUE

Jason Nightingale scores for St George-Illawarra against Canberra on Saturday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Jason Nightingale scores for St George-Illawarra against Canberra on Saturday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

They may have finally buried the Canberra curse but as the Dragons walk the finals tightrope, even three victories from their remaining games will not guarantee them play-offs action.

After reviving their season under Paul McGregor, losses to Manly, Roosters and Panthers left the Dragons needing to win four straight games for the first time since 2011 to give themselves any chance of featuring in September.

They ticked the first box against Canberra on Saturday but face the prospect of being the first side to finish on 30 competition points and miss out on the finals in 15 years.

Not since Canberra finished ninth on 31 points in 1999 has 30 points not been enough to make the finals but, with the Dragons boasting one of the worst points differentials of all teams still in contention for the top eight, it's a possible scenario.

Notching 34 points against the Raiders helped their cause but with a -49 imbalance going into Sunday's match with the Titans, only the Eels (-70), one win ahead of them in ninth place, have a worse for and against.

Their final three games are against teams outside the top eight including the Titans, with only the Broncos - whom they play in round 25 ahead of their final-round away game with Newcastle - ahead of them on the ladder.

It's complicated but Dragons halfback Benji Marshall said thinking about it was a "waste of time."

"I think we've got a good enough team to win every game but if we don't beat the Titans this week it's a waste of time, so it's the same old stuff; one game at at a time and it is because if we don't win we're out," Marshall said.

"We have to win every game and even if we win every game we're still not guaranteed to make it. There's no easy games, that's the fact these days. Any team can beat any team on their day and we've just got to turn up with the right attitude.

"We've got a home game against the Titans but it's going to be a pretty tough ask with them having a new coach. Usually when teams get a new coach they're hard to beat."

Marshall was his harshest critic after losses to the Roosters and Panthers, but returned to form against the Canberra Raiders, laying on both of Jason Nightingale's tries; the first with a deft kick and the second with a pinpoint pass.

"Today was a lot better. I think I took a bit more control in the second half and trying to make their big boys come out of their own 20 most of the time was my main goal and I added a few good touches at the end, so I'm getting to where I want to be," Marshall said.

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