St George Illawarra might be back in the top four after Saturday’s gritty victory over the Tigers, but Dragons players know there is still much to work on as the NRL finals approach.
While pleased to return to the winners circle for the first time since round 19, the players recognise Saturday’s performance was still well below what they were delivering earlier in the season.
For the third-straight week, and fourth time in five games, a player was sent to the sin bin as the Dragons conceded a string of penalties and the team’s attack was scratchy at times, with halfback Ben Hunt having one of his worst games in the red and white jersey.
While happy to get the victory, forward Tyson Frizell acknowledged the team still has plenty to work on against the Bulldogs this weekend.
“It definitely felt like the team that we had been throughout the start of the year, just the feeling out there at stages in the game,” Frizell said.
“The last couple of weeks we had probably been at a loss when that adversity had come our way. We’ve still got a long way to go in terms of being the team we know we are, but it was a step in the right direction.
“On the weekend, it was a good step in terms of confidence and getting back to where we want to be, but we’ve still got to fix a few areas up in terms of our attack and our penalties. In terms of holding the ball and our effort areas in our defence, it was pretty good on the weekend.”
With Gareth Widdop sitting on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, utility Kurt Mann stepped into the five-eighth role and delivered a starring performance.
Mann was pleased with his performance, but for him the most impressive aspect of the victory was the effort of his teammates to repel wave after wave of Tigers attack.
“Everyone turned up for each other,” Mann said. “There just seemed to be white jerseys everywhere, when people were making half breaks or there just seemed to be a ball on the ground, the boys were everywhere this week.
“It was a six-nil penalty count at the start of the game and we just felt like we were defending our line for the first 20 minutes and we just kept turning them away.”
The Bulldogs have emerged as somewhat of a bogey team for the Dragons in recent years, with St George Illawarra fans still hurting from last year’s round 26 defeat that knocked the side out of the top eight.
While the players won’t take any extra motivation from last year’s loss, Frizell said it will serve as a warning sign of what the side can do if the Dragons don’t turn up to Jubilee Oval 100 per cent focused.
“They’ve got us a few times,” Frizell said. “They got us in the finals series a few years ago and knocked us out to make the finals last year, so, they’ve been a bit of a bogey team for us in the past.
“You don’t really look back at that, wanting to get one back on them, you just want to go into the game and perform as well as you can as a team and hopefully the result comes with that and that’s what we’ll be doing.”