The Dragons have arrested a two game losing streak and returned to winners’ circle, by accounting for the Cowboys in Townsville, to the tune of 24-10. This win has temporarily seen the Dragons return to the top of the NRL ladder. In seeing off the luckless Cowboys, the Dragons have exacted revenge on the team who participated the last year’s finals at their expense. Moreover, they were able to jag a rare win in Northern Queensland. Here are five things we learned from the match:
1 Dragons return to NRL summit for the time being
Prior to this match, the Dragons were in the midst of a two match losing streak, courtesy of some disappointing losses to the Storm and Tigers. As such, many people in the rugby league world were wondering whether the Dragons had started to return to their unwanted habit of faltering at the tail end of the season. Moreover, despite spending the entire season in the top four thus far, their recent wobbles have rendered them vulnerable of dropping out of the top four. As such, a win was vital in this match for the Saints.
And win this match is exactly what the Saints did. Although the Cowboys threw everything they could at them, the Saints were good enough to see if the Cows’ challenge. The try on the stroke of halftime to Dragons forward Tariq Sims proved crucial, as the red and whites were able to prevent the Cowboys from adding to their halftime score, while putting the contest to bed in the 50th minute.
With this victory, along with the earlier loss by the Rabbitohs, the Saints have boosted their points differential to be superior to the Rabbitohs by one point, to return to the summit of the ladder. However, if the Storm are able to defeat the Warriors, they will leapfrog the Dragons and Rabbitohs to the top of the ladder.
2 Dragons exact revenge for missing 2017 finals
One factor of motivation for this match for the Dragons was that they missed out on the finals last year, and were replaced by the Cowboys, who almost went all the way to grand final glory, but for a rampant Storm outfit. As such, given the Dragons would have felt robbed of what they believed as a rightful place in the business end of the season.
As stated earlier, they were able to see off the challenge from the luckless Cowboys, to consign them to yet another defeat for the Townsville based club. Moreover, the Dragons were able to gain revenge on the team who participated in last year’s finals at their expense, as well as the fact that their finals spot was settled long ago, whereas the Cowboys are in a wooden spoon dogfight with the Bulldogs and Eels.
3 Tariq Sims' presence makes difference
Last week, the Dragons were comprehensively beaten by the Tigers at home, despite the final margin suggesting a close encounter. Their completion rate was reflective of a team out of finals contention, rather than one scrapping for a top four berth. And the Tigers were able to expose them at will.
However, this was the complete opposite, as one factor in the victory was the return of their enforcer, Tariq Sims. His go forward, and starch in defence was very influential, as he terrorised the Cowboys defence time and time again. Moreover, Johnathan Thurston, Justin O’Neill and co will have nightmares, having been on the receiving end of his brutal shots.
4 Dragons break tropical Northern Queensland drought
Prior to this match, the Dragons had an appalling record in the tropical north, having won only twice out of their overall ten matches. Although they would win both those matches in 2003 and 2005, their other matches would end in losses, to bring their overall losing margin of 22 points. This meant that they would leave the tropics on the back of a few hidings, none more significant than their 36-0 drubbing at the hands of the Cows in 2016, when the men from the north were reigning premiers. As such, this loomed as a danger match for the Dragons.
However, they would set about putting that right in the opening minutes, with an early try to winger Jason Nightingale. They would fall behind, however, courtesy of a few penalty goals from Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston, as well as a try to milestone man, Gavin Cooper. Moreover, they had Jack De Belin sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
However, that’s as good as it would get for the home side, as the Saints found their groove upon the return of De Belin. Not only would they regain the lead, courtesy of a try to Matt Dufty, but they would land a telling blow close to halftime, when Sims would grab a richly deserved try. The second half would only produce one try, but that went the way of the Saints, when debutante Jordan Pereira scored in the corner, and the try would be converted. From there, they would come close to adding to their tally, while also repelling waves of Cowboy attacks. It may not have been a massive win, but it means that their top four chances have been bolstered. Moreover, they have broken a drought in Northern Queensland, grabbing only their third win in eleven outings.
5 Cowboys have forgotten how to win
Conversely this Cowboys team became the first one since the class of 2008 to have lost five consecutive matches at home. It’s quite the fall from grace, considering how well they have performed this decade, particularly at home, as well as their consecutive finals appearances and their maiden premiership in 2015.
In previous years, they would have relished playing from behind, given they have had a tendency to absorb their opponents’ attack, and piling on the points. Moreover, they would have relished a scrap in previous years, if need be. Unfortunately, neither has really been the case this season for the Cows, as they have lost the overwhelming majority of their matches, after conceding the opening try. Moreover, the close matches which they would have nabbed since Paul Green took the reigns in 2014 have not gone the way of the men from the tropics, simply because they have forgotten how to win.
Exemplifying the fact that their confidence has been shattered is the fact that they continued to take penalty goals, when presented with the opportunity to build pressure on their opponents’ defence, as well as potentially scoring tries. Their lone try came when they had an additional man advantage. They certainly tried hard, but for a lack of composure in attack, which led to handling errors. Moreover, their defence is the complete opposite to their previous years, in that it is nothing short of terrible. The Cowboys need to really blood some youngsters, to build for the future, as the great JT will be retiring at season’s end. Moreover the majority of their premiership players are essentially a shadow of themselves, especially because some appear to be beyond their use-by date.
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