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Russell Packer and Jack de Belin following the Dragons' Round 1 win over the Panthers.

Forwards win games, backs decide by how much. 

It's one of the most famous quotes in rugby union, but it's one that is equally pertinent in rugby league. 

‌Only, the Dragons showed on Saturday afternoon that sometimes your middles can both lay the platform and reap the rewards, with five of their seven tries scored by forwards and the other two by five-eighth Gareth Widdop. 

The Panthers were tipped to win their Round 1 matchup through skill and flair. Instead, the much-fancied mountain men were outmuscled by a committed Dragons pack that outran them by almost 700 metres.

In fact, the Red V amassed the most metres (1981) out of any team in the opening week of the 2017 Telstra Premiership, with 11 of their 13 starters cracking triple figures, while bench forward Tariq Sims also notched a ton of running metres. 

Their attack was labelled 'boring' before the season started, but their big boppers showed there is more to footy than gazelle-like footwork and no-look passes.   

"I've said it right throughout the pre-season; I think our strength is in our forward pack," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said after the game. 

"We've got two experienced front-rowers coming in when two experienced guys come off. Not too many clubs do have that. It works really well. 

"I'm carrying that fourth guy on the bench as more of a utility this year where I shared the minutes last year, but the guys have gotten a lot fitter so I expect the better players to play more minutes as middles."

Back-rower Joel Thompson was the star on Saturday, crossing for his first career hat-trick, while lock Jack de Belin and new No.9 Cameron McInnes also found their way to the try line. 

It wasn't just the try-scoring trio who impressed, with Paul Vaughan and Russell Packer setting the tone early with some huge carries, while Tyson Frizell was a constant threat on the right edge in both attack and defence. 

The Dragons have plenty of depth, with behemoths Luciano Leilua and Mose Masoe waiting in the wings, and Thompson is confident they have the squad to trouble most teams. 

"All our middle boys are strong, powerful guys and we just play off the back of them. They set the platform for us with their aggression in their running and their 'D'. We played off that and I was lucky enough to finish it off for them," Thompson said.  

"We had a lot to prove, not just to everyone else, but to ourselves as a group. It was a good start, but it's whether we back it up now. That will show the true character of our team. 

"Everyone's writing us off and bagging us out before the ball has even been kicked. It's more about what we've got in the dressing room and what we've got as a club, and we believe in ourselves. We know what we can produce when we really rip in and do what we trained for."


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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