With all their State of Origin players backing up, the St George Illawarra Dragons were able to scrape home 18-16 in what was a tight, and at times dull game against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
1 The Dragons are not yet back to their best
Despite the victory, the Dragons have not yet recaptured the form that saw them at the top of the table every week for the first 12 rounds of the season.
After jumping out to an early 8-0 lead, the Dragons allowed the Bulldogs back into the game with some unforced errors in the first half, and a particularly soft try from Adam Elliot in the 17th minute. This is a clear sign that there is still a lot of work to do for Paul McGregor’s men.
Not that the man they call “Mary” will be complaining. At this stage of the year, for sides heavily affected by representative football, it’s not about how you win – it’s just important that you do.
Every win notched up at this time of the year will be a massive bonus for the Dragons towards the back end of the season.
2 Brett Morris has still got a lot to offer the NRL
With all this talk surrounding the Bulldogs’ salary cap, two of the players almost certain to be leaving the club are Brett Morris and his brother Josh.
There is plenty of speculation surrounding where the brothers will end up, with England shaping up as a likely destination.
After today’s game against his former club, Brett certainly put the other 15 NRL clubs on notice, showing that he can still be a game-breaker at this level.
His line-break in the 44th minute led directly to Will Hopoate’s try the next play – a try which got the Bulldogs back into the game. Morris then followed that play up with his own try just minutes later, to take the lead for his side for the first time in the game.
While the Bulldogs wound up losing the game, Brett Morris clearly showed that at the right price, he can still be a more than handy acquisition for any NRL club.
3 Jason Nightingale is perhaps nearing the end
In stark contrast to his former premiership-winning teammate Brett Morris, St George Illawarra legend Jason Nightingale found himself shifted to the bench from his usual right wing position just before kick-off today.
In what was a vastly reduced role, Nightingale played just the last 10 minutes of today’s game, defending in the middle third of the field and being used as something of a tackling machine.
It’s fair to say that Nightingale’s form this year has dipped – that’s despite his team’s stellar start to the season. He impressed somewhat in his 10 minutes on the field, taking part in some heavy contact both in attack and defence, and making crucial tackles when his team needed it most.
Off-contract at the end of the year, one cannot help but wonder if this is a sign of things to come for Nightingale. He has stated that he will not play for another NRL club at this late stage of the year. He is also reportedly not keen on moving to England.
Is this positional shift the beginning of the end for Jason Nightingale? Only time will tell!
4 The Bulldogs will have serious issues without Moses Mbye
To be fair, coming second-last with no change in fortunes in sight is already a serious issue. But if rumors that Moses Mbye will depart before June 30 are to be believed, then the Bulldogs’ issues are about to get a hell of a lot worse.
Mbye was outstanding in a beaten side, as he has been all season. Without Kieran Foran, he did the bulk of his side’s general-play kicking and play-making – from the position of fullback no less.
He also threatened regularly from kick-returns, and kicked some difficult conversions (although he missed some too).
If Mbye departs, one would assume that either Will Hopoate or Brett Morris would take over at the back. Neither option bodes well for the Bulldogs’ attack this season. Looks like darker days are on the horizon for the Canterbury-Bankstown club.
5 Clarification is required for the “dummy-half passing into offside players” rule
Several weeks ago, the NRL launched a crackdown on the farcical situation of dummy-halves deliberately throwing the ball into offside players who were not in the path of what could be described as a genuine dummy-half passing option.
This was a good move. It was ridiculous to see dummy-halves throwing the ball at players lying flat on the ground, completely out of the way, only to be rewarded with a penalty.
In this game, Cameron McInnes passed the ball into Josh Jackson, who was on his knees, to the right of the play-the-ball. A Dragons’ player regathered the ball, and McInnes was subsequently penalized for “cynical play”.
I am of the belief that Jackson genuinely obstructed the path of McInnes’s pass from an offside position, which should have been a penalty to the Dragons. In my opinion, Jackson was directly in the way of McInnes’ intended receiver on that play, Gareth Widdop. I will allow others to view the footage and judge for themselves.
But whether you subscribe to the above line of thinking or not, for a penalty to be awarded to the Bulldogs is just a straight up incorrect call, and at that stage of the game could have been very costly for the Dragons. Surely there are only two calls here – penalty Dragons or play on.
Todd Greenberg must come out and address this incident, and clarify what is the difference between cynical play, and genuine obstruction of a pass from an offside player.
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