Middle man... Dragons coach Paul McGregor wanted more central and less lateral against the Roosters. Credit: Robb Cox. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor lamented his side's poor fifth tackle options after they were downed 30-22 by the Roosters on Saturday night.
The Red V dominated the home side in the possession stakes 55 per cent to 45, and completed 11 more sets, but spent just 37 minutes in the Roosters half of the field, and in the end were out gunned five tries to four to leave them again at the wrong end of the mid-table logjam on 22 points.
McGregor pointed to the erratic kicking game of halves pairing Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall, who were both guilty of attempting low percentage chip kicks when a scrappy first half dictated more conservative options should have been taken, as crucial.
"We didn’t win enough field position to win the game. We were coming out of our own end a fair bit and their kicking game to ours was the difference between a win and a loss. Simple as that," McGregor said.
"At times we played too lateral, too. We didn’t earn the right. We tried to go around them before going through them but it just comes back to field position."
"Their kicking game was relentless, putting it in the one spot. We were starting our sets within 20 metres of our try line. When we got down their end we were erratic with our kicking game. It wasn't good enough."
Skipper Ben Creagh was left to rue a costly opening to the second half when the Roosters stretched a narrow 12-10 halftime lead out beyond two converted tries through four-pointers to Aidan Guerra and Michael Jennings.
"I thought our first half was pretty good," Creagh said.
"We came in at half time with a fair bit of confidence, two points down. I just thought there was a period there in the second half where we didn't play too smart.
"It seemed like we were chasing points straight away when we were only two points behind. It seemed like we were a bit panicked at times and that's what really let us down.
The loss means the Dragons could slip as low as 12th place by the end of Round 21 if the Tigers can upset the Storm on Monday night, and will find themselves again two points adrift of the top eight.
Given the Red V's unhealthy points differential of – 55, they will likely need to win four of their last five games to ensure a finals berth, though do face off against teams outside of the top eight in four of those matches.
McGregor said despite the final score, there were positives the Dragons could take out of their performance in preparation for what looms as a crucial clash with the Panthers next Sunday in Wollongong.
"It was five tries to four so there wasn't much in it," McGregor said.
"They were hurting from last week, they were the premiers last year so a lot of positives came out of the game. We were a little bit inconsistent in some of the stuff we did tonight but we're a much-improved football team."