Benji: England took it out of us
Dragons halfback Benji Marshall says a pre-season trip to England for the World Club Series may have contributed to the side's lacklustre opening fortnight.
The Dragons have emerged as one of the form defensive sides in the competition, winning three straight games after a dour opening fortnight in which they scored eight points in two weeks in losses to the Storm and Wests Tigers.
The Dragons were impressive in an 18-12 win over Warrington on February 20 in northern England but had to reacclimatise for their season opener and seemed to lack energy in their two opening losses.
"Our line speed was amazing over there [against Warrington], similar to how it was on the weekend [in Newcastle]," Marshall said.
"In the first couple of rounds we seemed to lose that a bit then we seemed to get it back. For us it's probably more about attitude and being there on the day and it feels like we are."
Marshall said while he felt the effects of the long return trip it had also provided benefits in terms of team bonding.
"Maybe the trip to England affected us a little bit more than we expected fatigue-wise and the travelling I feel really got to us. That could have been a contributing factor [to why] we started slow but we've turned it around and that's the main thing.
"I felt fatigued – I didn't feel fresh for Round 1, that's probably the main thing but we freshened up and slowly started to get it back. I feel like we're in a good place now."
Marshall said he wouldn't be campaigning to abandon the pre-season match in England however.
"I don't have a say, I don't really need to have a say, if they choose that they choose that," he said.
"I feel like the trip definitely brought us closer together and I feel like the positives from that are starting to show now with how we're turning up for each other in defence."
That defence is now the best in the NRL after five games, which is curiously paired with the worst attack after five rounds.
"But don't say 'worst'... say least scoring team!" Marshall laughed when it was brought up.
"It's not as bad as it all looks, we've done a lot of video on it and probably the main thing letting us down was the finish to the movements.
"We're creating three-on-twos and good numbers, we're just not finishing good enough. It's starting to come. If it was the other way around and our defence was struggling that's probably harder to fix but the attack's definitely going to come. The good thing is we've won three games in a row off the back of our defence. If we can keep that going and hopefully work on our attack the for and against can hopefully go up even better... We're building slowly, it's still a work in progress."
He said the manner of the opening two losses had been a concern but the side was taking confidence now from its defence.
"The first two weeks it wasn't so much that we were losing, it was the way we were losing, and that was from poor attack and poor defence. We fixed one of those up and we're fixing up our attack. I just feel like the attitude and the desperation that everyone's showing for one another is what's helping us."