Dragons better placed than '09: Hornby

St George Illawarra captain Ben Hornby has denied that his side is in a mini form slump, insisting that the competition leaders are far better placed to win a maiden premiership than they were 12 months ago.<br><br>The Dragons have been the team to beat all season but, much like 2009, have experienced some hiccups of late following losses to Penrith and the Gold Coast over the past three weeks.<br><br>Their struggles have poured fuel on accusations that they lack the extra gear needed go all the way come finals time.<br><br>Last season the Dragons dominated the regular season to claim their first minor premiership, only to bow out in spectacular fashion with consecutive finals losses to Parramatta and Brisbane. <br><br>But Hornby said it was unfair to judge the 2010 Dragons on their recent results.<br><br>“I think it’s harsh to say that we’re in a slump,” the 30-year-old told NRL.com in the wake of losses to Penrith and the Gold Coast and a narrow win over South Sydney. <br><br>“We’re still four points clear at the top of the table and we’ve played some very tough sides over the past few weeks. <br><br>“We’ve had some players out as well. <br><br>“I actually think it’s been ideal for us to have some really tough games ahead of the finals. <br><br>“We lost against Penrith but that was a tight game and neither side had their Origin players so I don’t think we can take too much out of that. <br><br>“South Sydney was a tough game as well and we won that one and then the Titans was a tough one last week.<br><br>“It’s been a difficult period for us at the moment but we’ll be right.”<br><br>While St George Illawarra has been the team to beat yet again in 2010, Hornby said that the side hadn’t forgotten their disastrous exit 12 months ago.<br><br>Having warmed up for the finals with a 37-0 thumping of eventual grand finalists Parramatta, the Dragons were sensationally upset 25-12 by the same opponents a week later before falling 24-10 to this Sunday’s opponents Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.<br><br>“We definitely use that as motivation,” Hornby said. “I think that’s the only way you’re going to improve. <br><br>“You need to learn from it and take out of it whatever you can so that you understand what you did wrong and try and improve on it. <br><br>“At the end of the day it’s going to be our performances that dictate that so we’re looking forward to it.”<br><br>Asked if the Dragons were a better side this season, Hornby replied: “I think we’re better prepared, but like I said we can talk about it all we want. It’s up to us to go out there and perform.”<br><br>The task doesn’t get any easier for the Dragons over the coming weeks with coach Wayne Bennett’s homecoming against the Broncos followed by blockbusters against the Sydney Roosters and Manly.<br><br>Hornby said that it was important the the side stayed positive in the wake of last Friday night’s devastating 11-10 loss to the Gold Coast which saw them go down to a Mat Rogers field goal in the last minute of extra time.<br><br>“It was a tough one for us – at 10-all we just couldn’t get into a good position in extra time to have that shot at field goal,” he said. <br><br>“It was disappointing to lose. We hung in there for the whole night and the Titans had to hang in there for the whole night to beat us. But we can take some positives out of it.<br><br>“That’s the big thing for us this week – to stay positive.<br><br>“I haven’t seen too much of Brisbane but I know they’ve been playing well and they’ve got a good young side. <br><br>“I’ve been impressed by some of their young players so it’s going to be tough, but they’re always great contests and we love playing up there almost as much as they do.”