The Courier-Mail

Dragons fire up

Sharks toothless against Saints onslaught

- PAUL CRAWLEY

WHAT a difference a year makes.

On the anniversar­y week of Paul McGregor taking charge at the Dragons, former coach Steve Price yesterday got the chance to see first hand just how far his old team had come.

With Price running water for the Sharks, St George Illawarra produced their best performanc­e of the season in the 42-6 annihilati­on of Cronulla.

And you could argue the Dragons haven’t played better since Wayne Bennett walked out the door.

When Price got the bullet this time last year, the Dragons had lost six of their last seven games and hadn’t made the finals since Bennett left.

Today they have won eight of their last nine to maintain their share of the competitio­n lead and who’d be backing them out from here?

In front of a packed 18,011 fans at the famous old Kogarah ground, the Dragons led 14-6 at halftime yesterday and by rights they should have been 14-blot after the on-field referee missed a knock on for the Sharks’ only try.

But after that it was all oneway traffic with the Dragons close to faultless in attack and defence – in the kind of performanc­e that again creates the debate, just how far can this team go in 2015?

Asked if it was their best win of the year, McGregor said: “Whether it was the best 80 minutes of the year, I am not convinced. But I was certainly very impressed with our second 40 minutes.

“It was probably near our best this year.”

With the best defence in the league by a fair margin, the Dragons’ attack is really starting to hot up.

After his phenomenal performanc­e for the Blues last Wednesday, Josh Dugan backed it up again yesterday, running 203m from 19 carries in a man-of-the match effort.

But Benji Marshall wasn’t far behind.

This is the bloke who people were laughing at last year when he returned from his failed stint in Super Rugby.

Today, Marshall is leading the Dally M Medal count, and he reckons playing some of the best footy he can remember.

“I had to change a lot of things and probably the biggest thing was a little bit of honesty with myself,” Marshall said.

“Where I was at and the reasons I was playing the game. I just feel like I fit into a great culture here and I have become a leader here and I am really enjoying the guys I am around.

“I am enjoying going to training every day which is important.

“And at 30 I feel like I am learning more now than ever.”

In yesterday’s performanc­e, Marshall, Dugan and Widdop hardly put a foot wrong, with Widdop snapping nine conversion­s from as many attempts.

 ??  ?? STUNNING PERFORMANC­E: Dragons winger Jason Nightingal­e runs the ball under a magical sunset at Kogarah Oval yesterday. Picture: Phil Hillyard
STUNNING PERFORMANC­E: Dragons winger Jason Nightingal­e runs the ball under a magical sunset at Kogarah Oval yesterday. Picture: Phil Hillyard
 ??  ?? RED HOT: Josh Dugan was at his best against Cronulla.
RED HOT: Josh Dugan was at his best against Cronulla.

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