St George Illawarra too good for Canberra Raiders

RUGBY LEAGUE

St George Illawarra halves partners Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall believe the team's attack is yet to hit top gear despite running in five tries during Sunday's 32-18 win over Canberra at WIN Stadium.

The Dragons produced their highest score of the season to beat the Raiders, the previous best being the 31 points scored against Canterbury in round six.

But Widdop and Marshall agreed it wasn't their best attacking game.

Marshall said some criticism of the club's attack earlier in the season may have contributed to the players focusing too much on scoring points.

"I thought we tried a little bit too hard," Marshall said in the sheds post-game - we probably listened to that stuff about our attack not being as good as it could be.

"Today we tried to score off every play.

"I think we're a better team when we grind out a set, defend, force an error then play the next set.

"Offloads that didn't need to happen and turnovers that we could probably work on."

They may have been partly critical of the performance but Dragons coach Paul McGregor credited the win largely to his two playmakers.

Widdop scored the opening try of the match and laid on three others in his most dominant display of the season, while Marshall also picked up a try and kicked a crucial 40-20 in the first half with his side under the pump.

The pair have been praised and maligned at times but deserve a lot of the credit for where the club currently sits, according to the coach.

"Our two halves were the difference today," McGregor said.

"I just think it's time playing together.

"You've got to remember that Benji only joined the team halfway through the year last year and Gareth was new to the club last year.

"Josh [Dugan] played a lot of centre last year too, and now he's playing fullback too, so the three of them have now played 10 games together this year.

"They had a little bit of footy together last year but they're developing and growing and just enjoying each other's company on and off the field."

The Dragons led 6-0 when Gareth Widdop latched on to a Benji Marshall grubber to post the first try and kicked further ahead through Jason Nightingale after Marshall's 40-20.

The Raiders managed to hit back through Sia Soliola who crashed over from a Mitch Cornish short ball to cut the lead to 12-6 before Widdop slotted a penalty goal to give the Dragons an eight-point buffer at 14-6.

They shot further ahead when Mitch Rein split the Raiders defence from inside his own half to link with Frizell, who found Euan Aitken with a brilliant flick pass to extend the lead to 20-6 six minutes before the break.

A try to Shannon Boyd just 30 seconds before the interval to cut the Dragons lead to eight at half-time and the visitors drew within two, five minutes after the resumption when Josh Papalii strolled across from close range.

An error from Croker on kick-off reception handed possession back to the Dragons who scored through Thompson, on hand to plant a bat-back from Eto Nabuli after a Widdop kick.

Nabuli was in the action again five minutes later when he collected a grubber from Cornish 10 metres out from his own line and darted 60m up field to put his side back on the attack.

A clever kick from Widdop gifted Marshall his first try of the season two rucks later to push the lead out to 32-18 with 20 minutes to play.

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