Blame it on Gaz!
Former centre Mark Coyne has pinpointed the return of prodigal son Mark Gasnier as the central reason for St George Illawarra’s recent point-scoring woes – but insists the short-term pain will lead to long-term gain.<br><br>Coyne told NRL.com it was no surprise that Gasnier’s return to the NRL against Penrith five weeks ago following an 18-month stint in French rugby had coincided with the Dragons’ worrying form slump that has seen one-time runaway competition leaders drop three of their past four games.<br><br>“I expected that there would be a bit of pain with ‘Gaz’ coming back in and I think that has shown over the past few weeks,” the former Queensland State of Origin star said after watching the Dragons fall to an insipid 10-6 loss to Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium over the weekend.<br><br>“They seemed to be really pumping that left-hand side a fair bit, with Darius Boyd coming in down the Brett Morris side, and they were scoring a heap of points by doing that – but I’ve noticed since Gasnier came back that they’re trying to build that right-hand side attack instead.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=841&fixtureid=50020100501&videoquality=1&type=try&period=1&time=2091">Click here to watch Brett Morris score in the 33rd minute against Brisbane in Round 5. </a><br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=841&fixtureid=50020100501&videoquality=1&type=try&period=1&time=2481">Click here to watch Brett Morris score in the 40th minute against Brisbane in Round 5. </a> <br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=857&fixtureid=50020102107&videoquality=1&type=linebreak&period=1&time=56%20">Click here to watch Darius Boyd being pushed into touch after 2 minutes of Sunday’s game.</a><br><br>“I think there has certainly been a shift in their thinking there.<br><br>“But to be honest I think it is the right thing to do because you want to have weaponry on both sides of the field. <br><br>“That was always going to be a bit of a work in progress as ‘Gaz’ got to understand the culture of the club now and the way they play.”<br><br>The Dragons have been quick to brush off any mention of the word slump as they look to avoid a similar demise to that which beset them last season, when they finished on top of the ladder only to lose both finals games and bow out in the space of two weeks.<br><br>When asked by NRL.com if his side was in a slump, Hornby replied: “I think it’s harsh to say that we’re in a slump.<br><br>“We’ve played some very tough sides over the past few weeks and we’ve had some players out as well. <br><br>“It’s been a difficult period for us at the moment but we’ll be right.”<br><br>However, statistics obtained by NRL.com today show just how far the once mighty Dragons have fallen in the wake of losses to Penrith, the Gold Coast and Brisbane and a narrow win over South Sydney in their past four games.<br><br>Having ranked third for points scored during the opening 16 rounds of the season with 23.1 per game, they have dropped to last between rounds 17 and 21 with just 10 points scored per game.<br><br>They have also dropped from fourth (4) to last (1.8) for tries per game and have fallen away in both line-breaks (4.5 down to 3.8 per game) and tackle-breaks (38.3 to 35.5).<br><br>Ironically, while they ranked seventh for metres gained during the first half of the season with 1368 per game, they have ranked first over the past five weeks with 1498 – but still haven’t been able to notch points.<br><br>Fox Sports commentator Greg Alexander accused the Dragons of playing “boring” football and said they lacked a Plan B once other sides had clued-in to what was coming.<br><br>“They were a far better attacking side in the first half of the season and the big difference was Darius Boyd,” Alexander said.<br><br>“What he was providing for his outside men was the key difference between last year and this year but that hasn’t been as successful in recent weeks.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=839&fixtureid=50020100302&videoquality=1&type=try&period=1&time=455">Watch Brett Morris being set up by Darius Boyd in the 7th minute of the round 3 match against the Cowboys.</a><br><br>“They’re like the Eels – if what has been working is all of a sudden shut down they haven’t got Plan B and they’re in trouble.<br><br>“Once Jarryd Hayne was shut down the other night, Parramatta had very little and if Darius Boyd is shut down where is the threat around the ruck?<br><br>“Where is Luke Priddis and Ben Hornby and Jamie Soward? That’s where the attacking thrust should come from.<br><br>“Boyd has been quiet and their second-man plays haven’t been working like they were at the start of the season – so all of a sudden they’re back to where they were last year.<br><br>“They’re a boring side – they’ve got game-breakers but only in certain circumstances when there is a staggered defensive line.”<br><br>“As we turn into the serious side of the season and defences improve, that’s the big concern over the Dragons – what they can do against a defensive line that is set.”<br>However, Coyne insisted that his former club could haul itself out of the hole in time for the finals.<br><br>“The positive thing is that it has happened now, whereas 12 months ago it happened in the three weeks leading into the finals,” he said. <br><br>“It’s an early warning this year.<br><br>“My own personal view is that they’ve just had the pains of ‘Gaz’ coming back in – but once he starts showing a bit of the form that we know he has got then I think he is that real X-Factor.<br><br>“When that happens he will take the pressure off that left-hand side and also Jamie Soward – it will give them that extra bit of oomph they need to get across the line.”<br><br><br>