IT’S the life vest keeping the Dragons finals hopes afloat.
While their fifth loss in their past seven games to Brisbane on Friday night made the top eight mountain a little steeper to climb, big wins over Manly and Gold Coast could still prove telling for the Dragons down the straight.
The 24-12 loss to the Broncos put slight dent in what remains a handy for and against of +87 despite running ninth on the ladder. Only top two sides Melbourne (181) and Brisbane (172) have scored more points than the Dragons and boast a better differential.
Most importantly, they have handy buffer on the Penrith (63) and Canberra (69) following the Panthers win over the Raiders on Sunday.
They also boast a much healthier differential than Manly (23) after their shock loss to Canterbury on Sunday, and the Cowboys (26), who fell to Cronulla 26-16 on Saturday.
The strong for and against highlights the chasm that exists between the Dragons best and worst performances this season, and will be entirely inconsequential should they drop either of their final two games to Penrith and Canterbury.
Both are winnable, but ensure sudden-death football will comes two weeks early for Paul McGregor’s men when they take on the Panthers on Sunday.
“We know what we have to do, we just need to go out there and do it,” McGregor said.
“Penrith are a quality team and Canterbury have obviously had a disappointing year but it’s the last game of the year for them so they’re going to get up.
“It’s still up to us. If we finish on 30 points are for and against is pretty good. We’ve just got to win. That’s the truth of it.”
A nine-day turnaround into the clash is also favourable after a flu virus swept through the Dragons camp in Brisbane.
It will also give the likes of Nene Macdonald, who was a late withdrawal from the Broncos clash, and Tyson Frizell time to recover from injuries sustained in last Thursday’s captain’s run.
“The nine day turn will help those guys with injuries and certainly help the guys that are crook at the moment,’ McGregor said.