Dragons v Raiders: Five key points
Marshall and Widdop run riot, and a number of players put their hands up for Origin selection. The key points to come from the Red V's 32-18 win over the Raiders at WIN Stadium.
Widdop and Marshall are a super skilful playmaking combination
"Our two halves were the difference in a few areas," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said after his team's impressive 32-18 win over the Raiders.
And his assessment was spot on.
The kicking game of the Dragons halves was pin-point throughout the encounter. Over the first 20 minutes of the game it completely suffocated the Raiders' attack, pinning them down their own end.
Perhaps most impressive however was the way Marshall and Widdop combined twice, kicking for the other to score.
In the 3rd minute Widdop showed brilliant hands to control a Marshall cross-field grubber, while in the 57th it was Marshall in great position to ground a perfect Widdop cross-kick.
"Their kicking today was far superior to ours," Ricky Stuart said.
"They were exceptional with that part of the game. It made it very hard for us."
There was some worry for the pair in the 70th minute however, as both went down with injuries but it looks as though both are OK.
"Gareth’s been playing busted for a number of weeks," McGregor said, while he also mentioned that taking Marshall off at the end of the game was a "precautionary" measure.
Jack Wighton needs to increase his involvement
With a number of respected commentators calling for the young Raiders fullback to be given a NSW Origin jersey at some point this year, Wighton should have done more against the Dragons.
On a number of occasions attacking kicks from the Raiders were not chased and he wasn't trailing through in support off half breaks.
It seemed at times as though Blake Austin was having to pick up the attacking slack which detracted from his own natural play.
Wighton was also found out positionally at fullback, allowing a Benji Marshall 40/20 kick to find a sideline that he should have been covering.
Wighton, who only started playing fullback last year, still had a strong impact with 16 runs and no doubt is a brilliant football player.
However his involvement needs to lift if he wants to appear on the game's biggest stage over the next few weeks.
Dragons are the real deal and showed they can score points
Coming into Sunday afternoon's game the Dragons had the fewest tries in the NRL, while the Raiders had the most.
You wouldn't have thought it as the home side put in an exciting and enterprising attacking display to score five tries.
In a high quality encounter the Dragons used decoys and run-arounds brilliantly to get Gareth Widdop the ball, in space, on the edges.
It was a smart strategy against a condensed Raiders defence.
After the match, Paul McGregor praised his side and attributed the space his halves found on the edges to the platform laid by his big boppers through the middle.
"The guys are taking nothing for granted and are working really hard for each other," he said.
"Lot of credit's gotta go to our middle. [They are] doing a fantastic job to let them [Widdop and Marshall] be the players they are at the moment."
The Dragons now move back to the top of the table with seven wins from 10 games before a bye next week.
"It's a nice position to be in going into a week off," McGregor said.
"The loss against Souths took a lot out of us... it was nice to get a lead and be able to hold it."
Frizell primed for rep honours
In an all-important match for Origin selection, Tyson Frizell showed everyone he wouldn't look out of place in a Blue jersey come May 27.
He was named man of the match in a performance that featured 12 runs for 142 metres, six tackle busts and a try assist off a brilliant flick pass out to Euan Aitken.
Frizell was a constant threat down the edge and outplayed Raiders second-rower Josh Papalii who was also very strong in trialling for Queensland Maroons selection.
"I think when your team's in form individuals get rewarded. I'm all for the players getting representative honours," McGregor said.
"There's a lot of competition in the back row, but they'll [Frizell and Joel Thompson] certainly put their hand up for a spot on the interchange bench."
Dragons captain Ben Creagh agreed that the in-form pair are ready for Origin.
"Their back-to-back efforts, they're involved in every set in attack and their efforts in defence... They're so strong, all their work on the field is outstanding."
Coach McGregor also praised his other two Origin certainties.
"Josh [Dugan], his form speaks for itself, Trent [Merrin's] playing the best football I've ever seen him play. They'll be in there," he said.
Rule interpretation under the spotlight
There was a contentious moment early on in the game as Raiders captain Jarrod Croker, playing his 150th game, was controversially denied a try for a double movement.
Dragons coach McGregor referred to the letter of the law in asserting it was a no-try.
"The ball's on the ground, the bloke still had hold of him. Once the ball's made contact and someone’s made a reasonable tackle on you you’ve got to play it," he said.
Meanwhile Raiders coach Ricky Stuart seemed incredulous that a try wasn't given.
"Try, every day of the week," he said after asking the assembled media their personal opinions on the incident.