Dragons v Bulldogs: Five key points
The Dragons marched to their fourth-straight win while the Bulldogs crumbled without their stars in a 31-6 loss to the Red V. Here are five key points to come out of the clash.
Tyson Frizell could be in trouble
It was accidental, but Dragons back-rower Tyson Frizell was a little fortunate to stay on the field after his careless high hit on Bulldogs prop Tim Browne.
However both coaches - Des Hasler and Paul McGregor - agreed Frizell shouldn't have been sent off.
"You never want to see a player on the ground like that in any sport," McGregor said after the game.
"It was definitely just a timing thing, if you look at the height of the player and where he was before Frizell hit him, Tyson's a lot smaller in stature.
"I didn't think he'd be sent off and if the same happened to us I wouldn't expect the Bulldogs player to get sent off.
"Tyson was certainly upset with the way it finished because if Jack [de Belin] didn't cut the bloke in half so much then he wouldn't have been so far forward. It was more a timing thing rather than an aggressive thing."
Frizell will likely be charged by the Match Review Committee on Monday and will all but certainly spend some time on the sidelines.
It's going to be a long few weeks for the Bulldogs
Without James Graham, Brett Morris, Sam Kasiano, David Klemmer and Tim Lafai the Bulldogs looked a mere shadow of themselves. They had no answer for the Dragons defence.
They were held up over the tryline at least three times, but even then the Bulldogs never looked likely. An even sadder fact considering they lost by 25 against a team who were completing sets at 68 per cent.
With Graham still three weeks away and Morris and Lafai out even longer, Hasler will need to blast the likes of Frank Pritchard, Chase Stanley and Antonio Kaufusi into gear if they are to be successful against a desperate Sea Eagles outfit next Friday night.
Trent Hodkinson also needs to step up. His direction and leadership, for an Origin half, was nowhere to be seen against the likes of destructive Dragons duo Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop.
Dragons attack compliments defensive brilliance
The Dragons have won four games in a row, but they have done so by not scoring many points... until now.
Against the Bulldogs, the Red V scored 31 points (36 per cent of their total season points tally so far) which was backed up by their rock solid defence that has been showcased since the second half of their Round 3 clash against Canberra.
In fact the Dragons have only conceded two tries in their past 300 minutes of football and with their attack finally clicking to compliment their impeccable defence they are looking more and more like premiership threats.
"We are getting plenty of confidence from our defence at the moment," Dragons captain Ben Creagh said.
"There are blokes turning up left, right and centre all over the field and there's a lot of try saves all over the park which is great.
"Our confidence is starting to pay dividends in attack because of it. I think to score 31 points was really good, we haven't done that all season. Benji played great tonight and so did Gareth so it was off the back of those guys running the show in attack that we won. If we keep defending like that then we'll go a long way."
Benji back to his best
How nice is it to see Benji do what he does best?
Gone is the erratic, fleet-footed Marshall and in is the matured, direct five-eighth that McGregor has moulded over the past year.
His two try assists weren't anything flashy – by Marshall standards - just simple cut-out passes. Yet possessing the foresight and prowess to pull them off is another story which is where he really shined.
Marshall earned man-of-the-match honours for good reason and his coach couldn't be any happier with how his halfback is performing.
"I thought last weekend against Newcastle he managed the game very well and I thought that it was his best game of football since he joined the club. I thought he followed through with it [against the Dogs]," McGregor said.
"I thought Benji really entered the game after 20 minutes and was busy and very controlling. He's a big game player so we need that commander in him out there all the time which he's certainly doing that for us."
Representative fate of Joshs up in the air
Much like their respective teams were on Sunday, one Josh is thriving while the other remains in limbo.
Josh Dugan's constant stream of good performances has him in good stead to replace Jarryd Hayne as New South Wales fullback.
While Penrith fullback Matt Moylan is pushing his claims for an Origin debut, Dugan has the inside running considering he's an incumbent and a perfect player to help the Blues win consecutive titles.
Who knows? With Brett Morris, Darius Boyd and Billy Slater all injured at the moment maybe Dugan can jag a Kangaroos jersey in May?
The same cannot be said for the Bulldogs' Josh Reynolds.
In his second week back from a fractured arm, coach Hasler has been picking rookie Moses Mbye over the incumbent NSW five-eighth.
Considering halves partner Hodkinson isn't firing either, who knows what Laurie Daley has in store for the reigning Origin champions.