For the Dragons, the equation was simple. Win, and they would be playing finals. Lose, and they would be watching them from afar. As such, a fired up St George Illawarra was expected to fly out of the blocks. Unfortunately for Dragons fans, that isn’t what happened.
Out-Enthused & Eventually Out-Played
It was do or die for St George Illawarra, but you wouldn’t have thought that was the case after watching the Dragons lacklustre start to the game. If anything, you would have thought Canterbury were fighting for survival. They left the Dragons way behind in the intensity stakes and were unlucky to be only two points ahead at the break. A 7-1 penalty count against them certainly didn’t help, yet despite their opportunities, the Dragons could not take full advantage.
Compared to their efforts from last week, this was a huge disappointment for their fans at the very least. Yet, even after they took the lead in the second half, the Dragons intensity did not lift. They asked the Bulldogs to come back at them, and Canterbury responded. In fact, come the relief of the full time whistle, the Dragons were beaten in many more ways than just on the scoreboard.
Where Was The Energy?
This is a question that will be asked many times over during the course of the next few days. Fans, the media, club officials, coaching staff and the players themselves will be asking this question. The funny thing is, no one will be able to answer it satisfactorily. When it comes to energy, or intensity, on the field it is a simple case of it either being there, or it’s not. It simply just should have been there. But on this occasion, there was no energy from the Dragons. With everything to play for, they started the game almost as though they were just going through the motions. The Bulldogs smelt an opportunity and lifted their intensity. Yet, even after seeing their opposition, with every stat against them, lift a gear, the dragons continued to play placid football. Their strong charges through the middle? Gone. Offloads to players on the move and better position? Gone. Defensive line speed? Gone. Their finals hopes? Disappeared before their eyes. And they have no one to blame but themselves.
Where Has This Been, Bulldogs?
I’ve asked this question before, but I’m going to ask it again; where has this been Canterbury? I’m sure I’m not the only one asking this. The entire Bulldogs army would be asking it. Many in the media are asking it. Another question to ask is, if this had happened, oh I don’t know, when it became clear as day that the old game plan from Des Hasler wasn’t working, would the Bulldogs be in the finals? The answer may well be an emphatic “yes!”. Unfortunately, it is way too little too late, obviously. And this has to hurt, not just the fans, but the players as well as a few of them won’t be at Belmore next season. All they are left with are the “what could have been’s”. And that doesn’t help anyone.
How Did It All Go Wrong, Dragons?
Remember back in Round 7 Dragons fans? They were good times, weren’t they? Where did the good times go? You were at the top of the NRL ladder then. Numero Uno. Now? You’re watching eight other teams play in the finals. Key injuries at times didn’t help, but that isn’t the only reason. If we’re to be honest, the Dragons simply lost their way for the majority of the season. Their stanch defence at the beginning of the year became soft. Their intent with the football waned. Any structure that they were working towards became a confusing mess. There may well have been times where the coaching staff and the players couldn’t recognise the team they were watching during video sessions. The team from the beginning of the year was nowhere to be seen from State of Origin onwards.
This offseason is going to be full of inconvenient truths for many in the Dragons camp. And with some quality players leaving the club, Paul McGregor may not have all the answers at his disposal come March next year.
Tries: Reynolds (4m), Hopoate (29m), Montoya (32m), Tolman (66m), Lichaa (73m)
Goals: Mbye 3/5
Tries: Thompson (14m), Nightingale (38m), Dufty (53m)
Goals: Widdop 4/4