Dragons must rebound to banish slump fears
LET'S not make this out to be more than it is. This is not a slump.
St George Illawarra have lost two games in a row for the first time this season.
And the 20-16 defeat to Wests Tigers was also the Dragons' first at home in 2018.
It came after a demanding State of Origin campaign for the club. And some days, well, some days just aren't your day.
But they now travel to Townsville this week and if they want to stop the conversation before it really gets started then they'd better do a job on the Cowboys.
Because you just know it's coming. And only the Dragons players can prove their critics wrong this time round.
They have a team capable of winning the comp.
And there is no way they will miss out on playing finals football this year.
But after being one of the competition's best teams for pretty much all season, now they have to keep it up.
As Paul McGregor calmly said after Sunday's defeat: "Today was the start of the last third of the competition.
"There is always three phases of the season, first third, middle third and back end.
"We will get everyone back now for the final seven games of the competition.
"Timing is important to make sure you are going at the right time.
"However today was a game we wanted to win, that we needed to win, and we didn't. So we just have to make sure we look at our vision and own up to a bit of it and move into next week."
After hammering Manly 32-8 in round 15, the Dragons got out of jail with two late tries to sink Parramatta 20-18 before getting pumped 52-30 against Melbourne without their Origin players.
But everyone expected them to lap the Tigers.
The only problem was for the first 40 minutes they could hardly hold the ball.
They only had 43 per cent of first half possession, completing at 67 per cent, and there was a distinct lack of energy and intent across the park, apart from the efforts of Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell. Which was why McGregor didn't even entertain the excuse of it being part of an Origin hangover.
"Paul Vaughan, for arguments sake, played all three and was probably the best on the field," he said.
So is the problem attitude?
"I am not sure. I hope not," McGregor said.
"But it is something we definitely (need to) address as a group when we get back to training on Tuesday."
The Dragons came up with two tries in the final 10 minutes like they did against Parramatta, but this time it wasn't enough to save them.
"When you have no field position and no possession and you keep making errors you don't get opportunity," McGregor explained.