Coach Steve Price has heaped praise upon his players as they bounced back from their heartbreaking Monday night loss to Melbourne with a gritty 20-10 win over the Warriors at WIN Jubilee Stadium.
Price admitted the Dragons had done it tough during the week, as the fallout from their 28-24 loss to the Storm escalated when referees boss Tony Archer admitted Melbourne’s match-winning play had started after the full-time siren sounded. St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust then called for the NRL to give the Dragons the two points for the win they had snatched from them with the fat lady well and truly singing.
“It has been a tough week,” said Price, as his side snapped a worrying three-game losing streak with their ninth consecutive win over the Warriors.
“I’m just proud of the guys the reaction and the response we got out them from Monday night.
“We spoke about it and we moved on once we got back to training. You don’t know until you finish with an 80-minute game the following week and we got the job done.”
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Tireless lock-forward Trent Merrin, who again led from the front for the Dragons with 156 running metres and 33 tackles, said the players refused to dwell on the controversial loss during the week.
“You can’t rewind the clock and dwell on it too much,” Merrin said.
“All the boys knew what job we had to do tonight and we prepped really well this week and we got away with the two points.”
With second-half tries to Sam Tomkins and Manu Vatuvei, the Warriors threatened to repeat the Storm’s efforts in hauling in a two-try lead with less than a quarter of the match remaining. Yet Merrin said the Dragons did not mention the previous week’s loss in the aftermath of Vatuvei’s try, which closed the gap to 14-10 with 17 minutes remaining.
“We had a look around (under the posts) and the confidence was there with everyone and we knew what job we had to do,” he said.
“We hung in there and they did test us there in that last period but we all knew we had faith in each other and we got the job done.”
The Dragons' back three of Josh Dugan, Jason Nightingale and Brett Morris were again outstanding for the home side, proving faultless under the high ball and a handful in attack, with Nightingale crossing for a spectacular first-half try and Dugan sealing the match in the 69th minute with a four-pointer of his own.
But Price preferred to sing the praises of hooker Mitch Rein, who was instrumental in setting up two tries, and also working through 128 running metres and 36 tackles.
“I was really proud of Mitch Rein’s effort there today,” said Price, who admitted the Kiama junior could well be playing himself into an Origin jumper with incumbent NSW rake Robbie Farah in doubt due to an elbow injury.
“If he keeps going like that he’s certainly going to put his hand up in contention for that sky blue jersey.”