Highs, Lows and Big Blows NRL round 20: Dragons coach Paul McGregor on form slump

THE Dragons are the only side to have been in the top four all season, but that could change if they don’t turn around their current form slump.

A tough win against the struggling Cowboys is now their only win since Origin III, slipping from first to fourth on the competition ladder.

A comprehensive 36-18 loss to the Roosters on Sunday has left coach Paul McGregor with more questions than answers just five weeks out from the finals.

“Every team at different stages of the year are playing their best footy and I think the Roosters right now are getting close to their best,” McGregor said.

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Dragons press conference

Dragons press conference


“We were not at our best [on Sunday], so we paid the price.

“Defensively they controlled the ball well in the tackle, which nullified us getting on the front foot, but in saying that we didn’t allow ourselves much either because our kicking game wasn’t where it needed to be.”

McGregor was critical of his own side, while heaping praise on the Roosters for their ability to build pressure and take their chances.

“It’s a bit deflating isn’t it,” McGregor admitted.

“Defensively we missed too many tackles and we paid the price. Every opportunity they got, they took and scored points.”

McGregor was hopeful his side could turn things around, but conceded they needed to be better at building pressure on opponents, before unleashing their attack.

“We need to cop our medicine a bit earlier in the sets and work hard to get into field position to play a bit of footy,” McGregor said.

“I was upset about that and I think we all are. We set standards this year and when you get beaten by a score regardless of the opposition, you feel it.

“We had a really good week at training, but we didn’t go out and execute our game plan.

“That happens every week to different sides and we weren’t thinking clearly when we got into field position, so as a group we will have to go back and do a bit of work on it.”

Read on for the highs, lows and big blows from the round 20 action!


Stunning Storm

They came into Round 20 on top of the table and after a dominant display in their 44-10 victory over the Raiders, that’s where they stayed.

Craig Bellamy’s side are now in the box seat to become the first side since Brisbane in 1993 to go back-to-back.

Cameron Munster has found a halves partner in Jahrome Hughes, who complements his own style of play and it makes the Storm an unpredictable beast in attack.

However, it’s their suffocating defence that makes the Storm the benchmark and their clash with the second-placed Rabbitohs next week will show just how far ahead of the rest of the competition the Storm might be.

Spudd backs the Storm

Spudd backs the Storm


Roosters crow

The Bondi club were written off at the start of the year, but their 36-18 demolition of the Dragons proved they are peaking at the right time of the season.

Trent Robinson’s men are now up there with the Storm as the two most lethal attacking teams in the competition.

Latrell Mitchell’s hat-trick and James Tedesco’s double showed the Roosters have two of the most dangerous attacking players in the game.

If they can get their defence right, there is not a side apart from the Storm in the competition who can match their firepower.

Teddy flames Dragons

Teddy flames Dragons


Panthers’ miracle comeback

After 67 minutes against the Sea Eagles, the Panthers looked like they were in real danger of missing the finals.

Then four tries in seven minutes turned a virtually certain loss into a miracle comeback victory, to cement fifth place on the ladder and keep them in touch with the top four.

Club boss Phil Gould said no team could have got themselves out of that situation apart from the Panthers, but was frustrated they had got themselves into it.

However, winning while playing badly is the sign of a good team and the 28-24 comeback win has the potential to reinvigorate the Panthers’ season.

Cowboys win for JT

Johnathan Thurston hasn’t had a lot to be happy about in his final season, but he turned back the clock to mastermind the Cowboys’ comeback victory over the Knights.

Down 18-6 at the break, Thurston led his team back, with five linebreak assists, two try assists and a try in a complete performance.

Te Maire Martin threw the last pass for Gavin Cooper’s matchwinning try, but it was Thurston who had the biggest impact on the result.

The future Immortal may not be playing finals footy in his last year, but the Cowboys now have the ability to send him out with a few wins, on the back of that one gutsy performance.

Cowboys comeback late

Cowboys comeback late



Woeful Warriors

The Warriors continued their rocks or diamonds season, but lately it has been much more of the former.

The Warriors have now won only once in their past five games and if the Tigers can go on a late season run, they are in real danger of missing the finals.

Stephen Kearney’s men seem to either win tight games or lose by plenty and their tendency to leak points is a bad sign for the finals if they can make it.

The Warriors can’t get Issac Luke back quick enough because the team plays immeasurably better football with their star No.9 on the park.

Sami makes RTS look silly

Sami makes RTS look silly


Ricky’s Raiders

They may have been dudded by the referees against the Sharks, but their performance against the Storm shows they are just not good enough to play finals this season.

Granted, the Storm are a lot better than most of the competition, but the 44-10 thrashing confirmed the Raiders don’t have the defence to challenge the top sides.

Ricky Stuart’s men have been hurt by a horror injury run, but so have the Panthers and the Sharks, who both find themselves in the top eight.

Their Round 20 clash with the Panthers will show if there is any life left in their season or weather the Raiders should begin planning for next season.

Toothless Tigers

Coming off two convincing wins over premiership contenders the Dragons and the Rabbitohs, the Tigers came crashing back to earth against the Bulldogs.

The 16-4 loss was made worse by the fact the Warriors lost, which gave the Tigers the chance to move to within two points of the top eight.

The Bulldogs have barely fired a shot this season, but they dominated a Tigers’ side lacking energy and enthusiasm from start to finish.

The Tigers need a big win against the Knights next week, to improve their points differential and keep their slim finals hopes alive.

Cleary: We didn't do enough

Cleary: We didn't do enough



Knights fade against Cowboys

The Knights put in arguably their best half of football for the season against the Cowboys on Friday night.

Unfortunately it was followed by probably their worst half of football in the second 40.

The Knights went away from what was working and refused to play any football, and after leading 18-6 at halftime, Johnathan Thurston made them pay.

Te Maire Martin’s matchwinning pass for Gavin Cooper’s try was questionable, but Nathan Brown made no excuses for his side’s inept display and their clash with a desperate Tigers’ side next week could be season defining.

Sea Eagles blow it

You have to feel for Trent Barrett, who was left shell-shocked after his team blew a 24-6 lead with 12 minutes remaining at Lottoland.

Manly were in the midst of putting in one of their most complete performances of the year, but it all fell apart in the space of seven minutes.

The Panthers scored 22 unanswered points to steal a victory from the jaws of defeat and Jake Trbojevic being reduced to tears summed up the feeling in the Manly camp.

The Sea Eagles now have a real battle with the Bulldogs, Cowboys and Eels to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon, with only two points separating Manly from the ultimate unwanted accolade — the first in their history.

Shattered Barrett can't cope

Shattered Barrett can't cope


Keary and Pritchard injuries

The Roosters’ brilliant performance in their 36-18 win over the Dragons was overshadowed by a knee injury to Luke Keary.

Trent Robinson was optimistic Keary would not face too much time on the sidelines, but Keary is such a big part of the Roosters’ side and they will want him back on deck as soon as possible.

Unlucky Eels’ hooker Kaysa Pritchard also suffered another injury, dislocating his shoulder in Parramatta’s gutsy loss to the Rabbitohs.

Brad Arthur does not think that Pritchard will play again this season, which would be a cruel end to an injury interrupted campaign for the Eels’ rake.

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