Widdop, Williams shine in Dragons trial win
Steve Price's new halves pairing of Gareth Widdop and Sam Williams were impressive in their first outing in Dragons colours, leading the side to a 60-16 demolition of a combined Illawarra and Mudgee outfit in their first trial game of the season.
The two new recruits were instant standouts in what was an unrecognisable, free-flowing Dragons side that produced 15 tries at WIN Jubilee Oval.
Price was pleased with his improved attack, but was more relieved to come through the game unscathed.
"There's been some really good signs through the pre-season. I think we scored 16 tries in total, so that's a positive," the Dragons coach said.
"But as I said, there's still a lot of areas we need to improve and that's why you play trials, to get it right for round one. But it's great that we've got no injuries out of the game."
Both Widdop and Williams played 60 minutes each while star fullback Josh Dugan played the first half before being rested. Former Rabbitoh Dylan Farrell bagged two tries, while English import Mike Cooper also got on the scoresheet.
The Dragons led 12-0 after the first quarter, but went on an attacking frenzy in the second, scoring another seven tries - two each to Charly Runciman and Nathan Green - for a 40-0 halftime lead.
The points dried up after the main break with St George Illawarra conceding two tries to one in the third quarter, but order was restored in the final 20 minutes as tries to Williams, Farrell, Kiti Glymin and Green helped the Dragons cross the half-century mark.
One area of concern for Price was his team's adjustment to the new rules, particularly their slow response after conceding a 40-20 kick in the second half.
"That 40-20 really caught us off guard there with the quick restarts. I'm glad that's happening now. That's an area we need to improve before round one. You'd rather that happen now rather than in coming weeks," he said.
Centre Gerard Beale and utility Kyle Stanley also made successful comebacks from long-term injuries. Beale played his first game back since rupturing his ACL in Round 5 last year, starting the game in the centres before making way, while Stanley played just under 30 minutes in his return from his fourth knee reconstruction.
"I was really pleased with [Beale's] offence out there today," Price said. "It was good to turn the legs over and just getting him free running and getting those legs long striding and he certainly did that tonight. It was good to see Kyle get through the game also."
Dragons 60 (Green 3, Runciman 2, Farrell 2, Williams 2, Dugan, Ailaomai, Cooper, De Belin, Harrison, Glymin tries) defeated Mudgee/Illawarra 16 (Twist, Brien, Pumipi, Leary tries)