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Wow, this Dragons team seems to be the real deal. They keep turning up in defence and have clever halves who are able to utilise their electric backs to good effect.
Even though they were beaten by an under-strength New Zealand Warriors team last week, they look to be the team to beat in 2018.
Surely the Melbourne Storm will have something to say about that, but for the moment, lets focus on the Dragons smashing of the Roosters today – a fierce match that was played in the trenches for most of the proceedings.
Not surprisingly, if you were to pick the top five players of the day, the Dragons would dominate. Here are mine.
1. Tariq Sims
Sims’ clear job was to hustle and bustle Cooper Cronk out of the game. He was relentless and contributed to Cronk having a game he’d probably rather forget. Every time Cronk had the ball in hand, his timing was limited by the dominant performance of Sims. He looked under pressure for the entire game, whether kicking or passing. And to add salt into the wound, he crashed over the top of Cronk to score a try from close range.
2. Ben Hunt
What a buy for the St. George Illawarra Dragons! He has zip and has combined brilliantly with Gareth Widdop to create an attack that we’re not used to seeing from the Dragon sides of previous years.
Even when they won the grand final, ironically against the Roosters in 2010, their game was based around tackling rather than spreading the ball. This conservative approach has given way to razzle dazzle from Ben Hunt, helped by endless offloads from the forwards.
3. Gareth Widdop
Despite the fact that he missed two relatively easy penalty kicks, Widdop showed the Rooster halves how to control a team. He organised and schemed his way through the game, giving Hunt the time to play his natural running game.
4. Nene McDonald
The Dragons winger is 111kg, so he’s literally like having another forward in the backs. He often requires three defenders to halt his progress in the middle. Plus he is a great finisher, even though one of his tries today was awarded after a very dubious decision from the video referee.
McDonald definitely dropped the ball after being hit by Cooper Cronk, but the adjudicator believed he had a finger on the ball as it released from his grasp. Nene is a former Rooster, so he was surely primed for a big game.
5. James Tedesco
In a beaten side, Teddy stood up and didn’t stop trying all day. He was extremely safe under the numerous high balls and was constantly looking to win the game on his own with individual brilliance.
He made a few half breaks, but was not supported by his teammates. He’s looking good to retain his spot in the Blues Origin team. Meanwhile, it looks like he going to have to wait patiently for the Rooster combinations to click.
Do you agree with my picks?