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St George Illawarra are refusing to acknowledge themselves as NRL title contenders even after their 24-8 Anzac Day dismantling of the Sydney Roosters.
After a Ben Hunt masterclass and the rub of the green with the bunker, the Dragons posted a four-tries-to-one win in front of a bumper crowd of 41,142 – a record for the fixture – at Allianz Stadium.
After one-third of the competition, the Dragons are out in front as ladder leaders.
But Dragons coach Paul McGregor urged caution, having been in a similar position over the past three years, only to fall away badly.
Last year, they led the competition after seven rounds and missed the eight.
Two years prior, they were first after seven rounds, finished eighth and were knocked out in the first week of the finals.
“We were in the same position last year and, for their mental state, I think it’s good for the guys to go away and have four days off after a win,” McGregor said.
“Because history has shown we have been in the same position before.
“I know we have a different football team this year – we have a very good balance of a football team.”
Tariq Sims was dominant again, pulling off a string of big hits on Cooper Cronk and coming up with a crucial try, while Tyson Frizell won man-of-the-match honours.
Hunt came up with the line break to set up Nene MacDonald’s opening try before going over with a show-and-go in the shadows of halftime to make it 12-2.
The video referees were again a major talking point after green-lighting a second MacDonald four-pointer in the 69th minute.
After the Dragons put it through the hands, the ball appeared to come loose due to the attention of Cronk.
However, bunker official Jared Maxwell ruled MacDonald still had a finger tip on the ball and there was insufficient evidence to overturn the on-field call.
The Dragons were up 18-8 at the time and the four-pointer killed off any hope of a Roosters fightback.
“I don’t think it was a try, simply,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.
“But we’ve got to get some stuff right for ourselves. To be honest, I don’t care.”
Latrell Mitchell’s four-pointer in the 51st minute was the only time the Roosters could crack the Dragons’ defence.
At one point during the first half, the Roosters had six sets on the Dragons’ line but couldn’t break them open and had to settle for a penalty goal.
“It’s more on coaches, I think. These guys are trying really hard in that area – I think you could see the sets were flowing quite well, even though the opportunities weren’t coming,” Robinson said of their attack.
“We’re making them work hard on structure at the moment. We’re not giving them freedom with their eyes up footy, which we’ll get to.”