Dragons sweat on injuries as NRL finals race heats up

RUGBY LEAGUE

Tyson Frizell makes a charge for the Dragons against Gold Coast on Sunday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Tyson Frizell makes a charge for the Dragons against Gold Coast on Sunday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

St George Illawarra kept the finals torch flickering with a thumping win, but it was tempered by the potential loss of attacking weapons Josh Dugan and Benji Marshall for Friday's must-win showdown with Brisbane.

Marshall rolled his right ankle in the 43rd minute and hobbled through the next 15 minutes of play, before McGregor decided to take no chances and rest his five-eighth, who had one of his better games in the Red V on Sunday afternoon.

Dugan injured his left ankle in the final 10 minutes, leaving the field as a precautionary measure with the result beyond doubt.

Both will have scans on Monday.

In front of a crowd of 9584, it was the club's new recruits, Marshall and Gareth Widdop, who starred for the Dragons, while Dugan continued his impressive development in the unfamiliar centre position.

The loser of Friday night's Dragons-Broncos match will be forced to start planning for 2015, however the victor still has no guarantee of playing finals football.

Captain Ben Creagh believes St George Illawarra are finally earning some respect in the NRL after their 34-6 thumping of the Gold Coast. In the Dragons's first game since former caretaker coach Paul McGregor was signed to a three-year deal, the home side hammered a hapless Titans who couldn't hold onto the ball and were never really in the contest.

Racing to a 16-0 lead after 20 minutes Marshall, Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale all scored.

With Marshall enjoying his improving form, the Dragons then piled on three tries in 12 minutes midway through the second half to Josh Dugan, Gerard Beale and Joel Thompson to put the game to bed.

Labelled as soft by former coach Steve Price earlier in the year, Creagh said the Dragons were beginning to show some real backbone at the back-end of the season.

"We did cop a lot of flak early on in the season, but a lot of it was warranted, because we were playing pretty soft at times and we were not playing the tough footy that a forward pack should play," Creagh said.

"But the last 12 weeks I think we have consistently played some tough footy, especially with our defence and we have backed up our attack week to week which is what you want.

"That was our most mature performance of the year."

McGregor praised the continued evolution of Marshall.

"The composure that Benji is starting to play with, he is only going to get better and better," he said.

The win keeps the Dragons's finals hopes alive; they sit a win behind eighth-placed Parramatta.

But Marshall and Dugan are in serious doubt for Friday night's round-25 match against Brisbane with ankle injuries.

The injury-hit Titans were not helped by the late withdrawals of Luke Douglas (doping ban) and Nate Myles (biceps), but their inability to hang onto the ball also worked against them.

Interim coach Neil Henry was scathing of their effort.

"It was a pretty poor performance from us," he said. - AAP

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