All season long the Dragons have had to deal with pressure from the media, fans of the game and even their own supporters and at one point it looked like it would kill them especially during their absolute lowlight when Parramatta flogged them to the tune of a 40-4 scoreline.
The ‘inconceivable’ choke was on full-show and critics were questioning their ability to do anything in the finals and it was getting a bit more personal for head coach Paul McGregor with many wanting him gone, while Queensland halfback Ben Hunt was having his worth to the side and salary questioned in every way possible.
At one point his significant other even came out and publicly defended him and his worth.
Then two games later an equally shocking 38-0 defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs crashed spirits even further and the Dragons were in all sorts. Having that sort of pain inflicted on them at home against a cellar-dwelling side was an absolute embarrassment to not only the club but the fans themselves. However, in between the two devastating losses, they posted a 10-point win over finals aspirants the Tigers and in a process put a massive dent in their then finals footy hopes.
The Dragons did manage to ‘course correct’ somewhat with a relatively comfortable 10-point win away against the Newcastle Knights in the last game of the season.
The Suncorp Grand Final
With the regular season consigned to the history books, no one in their right minds, this writer included, could have seen coming. Scoring an astonishing 48 points against a determined Brisbane Broncos outfit in front of a packed crowd at the venerated Suncorp Stadium was practically unthinkable before kick-off.
St George absolutely demolished Brisbane and humiliated their ex-coach in Wayne Bennett.
Tariq Sims scored three tries, and the Dragons were rolling on all levels. They completed 32 of their 38 sets (84%), while their attack was on fire forcing the Broncos to miss 53 tackles in the process.
And while it was truly an incredible victory for St George, it was their Grand Final.
They had all eyes on them at the start of the campaign as they won eight of their opening nine games. However, after that, they only won seven of their remaining 15 matches and their collapse started with a 28-2 loss to Penrith who were among the other top dogs at the time. From there most of their regular season it didn’t get any easier, but yet here they are, now only two games away from a spot in the NRL’s biggest game.
They can’t go further
Yet despite their experience in the likes of Hunt (four games for Australia), James Graham (39 games for England), Tyson Frizell (10 games for Australia), Jack de Belin (three games for New South Wales), Jason Nightingale (33 games for New Zealand) and company, it won’t be enough to get them into the Grand Final.
Their game against Brisbane was just that, they put all their energy and effort into winning that match. Regardless of whether they come out on top or not against the Rabbitohs, it won’t matter. A combination of their see-sawing season, plus their energy exerted and everyone who’s against them means it’ll prove to be too tough of an ask.
St George’s history against South Sydney doesn’t exactly endear them either, having won only three of their last 13 matches against the Red & Green, while South Sydney beat them by 14 in their last game contributing to the Dragons inability to beat the top sides this season.
They pushed and pushed against Brisbane and gave it absolutely everything they had. Now coming up against a far superior side, St George may have met their match. Sam Burgess and his men may be able to count themselves a bit unlucky they couldn’t top Melbourne in their one-point defeat last time out, against the Dragons theirs a good chance they could reverse that.
Unfortunately for Dragons fans all round there will be no Grand Final for them this campaign. But they should be incredibly proud of their side’s victory against Brisbane.
They left everything they had out on the field and with them coming into the game as massive, massive underdogs, they have to be commended, but unless they stop their ‘choking syndrome,’ Saints fans you might want to stop snapping up Grand Final tickets so early.
Did St George Illawarra play their Grand Final last Sunday afternoon or do they have another couple of upsets up their sleeve? Let us know in the comments below.
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