Dragons v Roosters: Five key points
The Dragons continued to pile on the misery in the Roosters' horror season to date, clinging on to a narrow win despite a valiant Tricolours second-half fightback. Here are five talking points from their 20-18 victory.
A game of two halves as Dragons' second-half woes continue
While the Dragons seemed to put their recent attacking woes behind them in a first half romp to an 18-0 lead at the break, they appeared guilty of trying to hold on to a win rather than put the result beyond doubt when the Roosters began tossing the ball around in the second 40 and almost stole an unlikely victory.
It ended with St George Illawarra's 10th try-less half of the year, and a single second half penalty goal keeping them in front at the final siren. Not since Round 1 have they scored tries in both halves of a game and of their 10 try-less halves, six have been second halves.
"It was a game of two halves wasn't it? I thought our first half was real clinical, we did what we needed to do and came up with some points," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said after the game.
He credited the Roosters' enterprising play in part for getting them back into the contest, but admitted the second half fade would need to be addressed.
"They had 10 offloads in the second half which is unlike the Roosters, they play a grinding tough brand of footy but they threw caution to the wind in that second half and got some success from it," he said.
"We certainly will address it – we led the week before, 18-6 at half-time too [against Gold Coast]."
Contentious calls make the headlines
Roosters coach Trent Robinson was happy to line up a good old-fashioned spray at the officials and it marked his second successive Anzac Day loss blasting what he said was a habit for some players to lie down after tackles hoping to draw a penalty from a video review.
On that occasion then-rookie Euan Aitken was criticised by Robinson for staying down in a 14-12 nail-biting win for the Red V. Twelve months on and while the bunker is a new addition to the game, coaches finding fault with officiating is not.
Undoubtedly the 79th-minute call to award the Dragons a penalty after a big hit and accidental head clash on Taane Milne had initially looked to hand the Roosters a chance late in the game was the breaking point for Robinson.
"It's just a soft – we're on Anzac Day. We want to play a tough game and they were just soft calls coming from the bunker. They weren't good enough," Robinson fired after the game.
Widdop hits back in fine style
After putting in one of the worst efforts of his career in a dusty 26-0 loss at Brisbane in Round 6, Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop has responded in the best possible way – leading from the front in back-to-back victories.
Widdop bagged the Ashton-Collier medal for best on ground in the Anzac clash and said he'd had to go back to basics after his struggled a fortnight ago.
"We had a tough road trip up to North Queensland (a 36-0 loss in Round 5) then up to Brisbane and I set high standards for myself and it wasn't good enough. You just have to look at yourself in the mirror. I wasn't doing my job for the team and it hurts everyone," Widdop said after scoring one try, setting up another and booting four goals in the two-point win.
Trio of Roosters left on report, Dragons groggy
It probably didn't help Robinson's mood that three of his players finished on report.
Prop Sam Moa's ninth-minute challenge on Dragons general-play kicker Josh McCrone left the former Raider on the turf and Moa on report for a shoulder charge, as well as handing the Dragons chance at first points, which they took via a penalty goal.
Eloni Vunakece's headlock on Jason Nightingale may come under scrutiny for unnecessary pressure on the neck while Napa's late-game tackle on Milne has been mentioned at length.
McGregor said while he didn't have any major injury worries, both Milne – who copped an accidental head clash from Boyd Cordner in the same tackle that saw Napa placed on report – and Mitch Rein, who was hit hard by Kane Evans and had to go off for assessment – were groggy after the game.
"They're both a little bit sore in there. Taane isn't too bad. He remembers the game which is good – it was his debut there so it was a special occasion on today, making his debut so getting carried off's not a great way to finish it but he seemed to be OK," McGregor said.
"Mitch is a little bit sore and sick at the moment concussion wise so we'll have to have a really good look at him through the week and see how we go."
Finals intensity matches Anzac occasion
On what is an important day on the Australian and New Zealand calendars, victorious coach McGregor was happy both sides found an intensity more often seen in finals-type scenarios.
"The build-up is something that's not seen in a week-to-week game," he said.
"It's seen around semi-final time and that's the way you approach it.
"We were fortunate enough to have a nine-day turnaround which is really good going into it where we could rest the guys up after the Titans game and then really push towards some tough sessions through the week to get ready for today.
"It's an honour and a privilege to play on this day. We always do a special tribute in video in the build up to the game and the blokes understand what Anzac's about."