Dragons building formidable forward arsenal

THE Dragons have vowed to play a “power game’ in the middle of the park this season and stand-in skipper Tariq Sims believes his side passed it’s first test in a 20-10 win over a heavyweight Tigers outfit on Saturday.

ENGINE ROOM: Tariq Sims says the Dragons big men passed their first test against an experienced Tigers pack on Saturday. Picture: Adam McLean

ENGINE ROOM: Tariq Sims says the Dragons big men passed their first test against an experienced Tigers pack on Saturday. Picture: Adam McLean

The match at WIN Stadium was a torrid affair with both sides looking to blow out the cobwebs but the performance of his big men upfront no doubt pleasing for coach Paul McGregor.

The Dragons were without the likes of Tyson Frizell, Joel Thompson, Paul Vaughan and Russell Packer in the engine room against a Tigers pack that was virtually full strength barring the absence of skipper Aaron Woods.

The hosts struggled with a lack of possession the first half, and were reduced to 12 men after Jack de Belin was sin-binned, but finished the stronger of two packs, piling on 20 unanswered points to claim the trial victory.

They’ll face an even tougher task against a famously top-heavy Rabbitohs outfit at ANZ Stadiumm on Sunday but Sims said his side can take plenty of confidence out of the win over the Tigers.

“We made it hard for ourselves at the start but we backed our conditioning and we knew if we hung in there and played the way we wanted to, which is the power game, we’d come good at the end,” Sims said.

“I don’t know what the stats were yardage wise but it definitely felt like we were powering through their middle, we’ve just got to be better on the execution at the back end of our sets.

“We need to complete better. I’m not sure what our completion rate was but there were a lot of dropped balls and a lot of play-one, play-two errors so if we’re going to compete for two points in the NRL each week we need to make sure knocking that on the head.

“We’re still missing some pretty big boys and pretty important players for us. Once we start getting the likes of big Mose [Masoe] back, big Russ [Russell Packer], Friz [Tyson Frizell], Joel Thompson and start laying the platform a bit better and being a bit crisper on the back end of our sets the points will definitely flow.”

While much of the preseason discussion surrounding the Dragons has centred on the vacant halfback position, McGregor has said it’s his all-representative forward pack that can bring the attacking spark his side has lacked in recent years.

It’s seen him simplify what his big men do with the ball in 2017 but Sims said his side’s approach will be a mixture of flash and bash.

“We’ve worked a lot on ball-work and a lot of ball movement within the forward pack this preseason,” Sims said.

“There’s a lot of players in our team who can pretty well tuck the ball under their arm and take it forward for some strong metres and there’s some forwards who can definitely throw shape at teams and ask questions in the middle.

“What it comes down to probably just knowing when to put that shape on and earn the right to play with the ball.

“You can’t attack the try-line from your own 10-metre line so we’ve got make sure we’re grinding it out early and earning that right.”