Dragon’s gutsy and impressive performance
The Dragons were overall an underwhelming side in 2016, with almost no attack to rave about, as well as an unreliable defense. But in 2017, through 3 games, they seem to be filled with confidence and power. The back three of the side played solid football, and defensively were on point. But it was the forwards in particular who played extremely physical in the middle, and handled whatever the Sharks big men threw at them.
Paul Vaughan seems to have clicked the team into another gear, and every time he ran the ball he carried three guys with him. With the likes of Sims and Ah Mau coming off the bench as well, Paul McGregor may have found a winning formula up front.
Shark’s back three a no-show
The backbone of Cronulla’s menacing attack in 2016 has been broken up, with Barba moving overseas, and Holmes and Feki having injuries at different times. Bird struggled to impact the game the way we would now expect. Solid under the high ball, but the attack close to the Dragons goal line was almost inexistent (from any of the core playmakers at that). Holmes had a cautious performance after coming back from injury, and Edrick Lee is simply not on the same level of Feki, and seemed absent during the game (aside from his try).
Coach Flanagan was happy to point out Bird’s average performance, and will have some team issues to sort this week as Cronulla have another tough match-up against the Eels on Saturday.
De Belin continues to rise
Man of the Match, Jack de Belin was once again sensational in the Dragons win. His early experience at hooker and the halves (at times) during his career has given him great ball control and a crafty mind. Back that up with his natural size and power, de Belin is quickly becoming one of the better locks in the competition. De Belin made it his duty to run right at Sharks big-man Andrew Fifita, and every time picked up good metres. Later on, a beautifully placed kick by de Belin was scooped up by Vaughan and looked a certain try, but Vaughan was forced to retreat and avoid an obstruction penalty.
Nevertheless de Belin has shown all the necessary skills to become one of the best forwards in the game, and one of the more versatile ones at that. A New South Wales Origin call-up could be on the cards if all goes well for the remainder of the season.
Kicking game still a concern
Although it has improved, the kicking game for the Dragons continued to look shaky. McCrone made numerous errors off the boot, kicking deep in the in-goal area early on, and put one out on the full towards the end of the match (to name a couple). The pairing of McCrone and Widdop in the halves is one of the least impressive in the competition, which may be a cause for concern in the near future. Luckily, the arrival of Ben Hunt in 2018 should give the Dragons a better option in the halves to finish sets, but for now, McCrone needs to find some consistency to advance the Dragons attack.
Tries: E. Aitken (2) (22m, 37m)
Goals: G. Widdop 4/4
Tries: L. Lewis (50m), Lee (57m)
Goals: J. Maloney 1/2