Dragons slay critics with win over Sharks
St George Illawarra coach Steve Price claimed the Dragons had finally “pulled the pants down” on their army of critics after eking out an 18-10 win over Cronulla to remain on the cusp of the NRL top eight.
In a somewhat bizarre attack at unknown sections of the media, rookie coach Price said his group had been using criticism of their performances as fuel to mount a late season charge at a finals berth.
That quest is still on track after a dubious Trent Merrin try 13 minutes from fulltime maintained a Sharks losing streak in Wollongong that stretches back to 1989, the Dragons clearly planning to bunker down under a siege mentality over the closing stretch of the regular season.
“Anyone who doubts our character and our spirit amongst our footy club certainly got their pants pulled down today,” Price said.
“You’re always hearing a lot of bad press about our footy club … (there’s) just a lot of negative stuff which has been happening over the last couple of weeks but we know what works.”
Asked if the criticism – which by and large had stemmed from an attacking record which is the worst in the competition – was warranted, Price said:
“To a degree.
“There’s a lot of good things we’ve been doing but we’re big enough to overcome what’s been thrown at us.
“We certainly do (feed off it), definitely.”
The attack certainly showed more enterprise against the Sharks but still yielded just three tries, including one against the run of play to Brett Morris on the stroke of halftime when Todd Carney threw a ball behind his runners and the winger ran 75 metres to score as the hooter sounded.
“The try just before halftime was probably the nail in the coffin in the end,” Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said.
“I know what Todd was looking for.
“When you’ve got players like that who roll the dice, every now and again they’re going to come up cats (sic) eyes.”
Flanagan was left fuming by two calls – one which led to Merrin’s four-pointer from what appeared an obvious knock-on and another against stand-in skipper Wade Graham, who scored both of Cronulla’s tries either side of halftime.
Graham was ruled to have thrown a forward pass for an Anthony Tupou no-try which would have given Cronulla a 14-12 lead.
“We just didn’t recover from those decisions,” Flanagan said.
The Dragons effort was the more meritorious considering they lost Jamie Soward prior to the game with back spasms before his replacement Kyle Stanley suffered a suspected torn ACL six minutes into the contest.
“You can’t underestimate the belief factor in a game of rugby league,” Dragons skipper Ben Hornby said.
“We weren’t perfect but we did enough things right to win the game.”© AAP 2013
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