Dragons halves get free reign from McGregor

Dragons' flyer Brett Morris soars through the air to score in the corner against the Raiders in Canberra on Saturday.Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Dragons' flyer Brett Morris soars through the air to score in the corner against the Raiders in Canberra on Saturday.Picture: GETTY IMAGES


Their finals hopes may be hanging by a thread but Dragons coach Paul McGregor won't encourage his side to go into their shell in their remaining three games.

The Dragons were under plenty of pressure heading into their match with the Raiders on Saturday but responded with seven tries to bury their Canberra hoodoo and keep their finals hopes alive.

After looking out of sorts in losses to the Roosters and Panthers it was a return to form for halves Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall who both produced a number of class touches in the impressive victory.

While it was a win marked more by composure than flair, with the Dragons' finals fortunes resting largely on their shoulders, McGregor said his marquee pairing still have a licence to back their instincts.

"We've always let the ball have plenty of flight. I promote the footy and I enjoy playing an aggressive attacking style of football," McGregor said.

"But that doesn't mean you have to throw the ball out [of] your backside either. You can break it down and play off it.

"We've got two halves that've won grand finals and played for their country. They're good footballers and experienced players they know when we've got to build pressure."

The Dragons certainly built pressure in the win over the Raiders with four of their seven tries coming in the final 20 minutes to overturn a 16-10 deficit just after half-time.

Widdop, who had a hand in three of the Dragons' tries including the game-breaker for Josh Dugan on his Canberra return, said he and Marshall sought to simplify their role going into the crunch match.

"We went into that [Penrith] game and we probably just threw the ball around too much and didn't play with enough composure. We were trying to score points too often rather than just rolling our sleeves up going forward and building pressure," Widdop said.

"We still want to throw the football around, it's not about going into our shell, but the last few weeks we were just forcing passes when we didn't need to and turning the ball over cheaply and that was a big focus for us.

"We spoke about it and we said we probably just needed to simplify the way we play a bit and I think we did that [against Canberra]. To get the win was massive for our season."

Widdop said his partner's big-game experience will be an asset as the Dragons look to navigate three matches with the finals axe hanging over their head.

"Benji's an experienced player, probably the most experienced player in our team and we need that as a young group," Widdop said.


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