Ennis: Dragons must now back it up
Michael Ennis has challenged his former club St George Illawarra to prove that their Round 1 thrashing of the Panthers is more than a false dawn with a similar display against the Eels on Sunday evening.
Two of the Telstra Premiership's most passionate sets of fans enter Round 2 full of confidence after first-up wins that showed the Dragons do have points in them and that the spirit the Eels displayed last year has carried forward into 2017.
With the Panthers the popular pick among bookmakers as premiership favourites prior to a ball being kicked only those who carry the Red V permanently across their chest could have hoped for such a result, particularly after their performance in the Charity Shield.
Writing in this week's issue of Big League, Ennis has implored the Dragons to prove their 42-10 win was no fluke by bringing the same energy and purpose when they meet Parramatta at Wollongong.
"I called the Charity Shield for Fox Sports a few weeks ago and they showed no signs of improvement – they looked very structured and played a lot of pre-line football and South Sydney handled them with ease," Ennis writes in Big League.
"Heading to UOW Jubilee Oval on Saturday, I had big expectations on the Panthers and no inkling as to what would eventuate.
"As a team, they looked so happy to be racking up a score despite all the disbelief they have had to deal with.
"All of this will mean nothing, though, if they can’t repeat the effort against Parramatta this week.
"Last year the Dragons did a number on us (Cronulla) at Kogarah but it was their inability to back it up that cost them throughout the rest of the season.
"They’ll take so much confidence from their win against the Panthers, but it will be two-fold if they can knock over the Eels."
With 58 per cent of possession against Penrith all of St George Illawarra's starting running forwards busted through the 100-metre mark with Ennis reserving special praise for lock forward Jack de Belin.
The workhorse No.13 had 20 carries for 155m, made 36 tackles and scored a blockbusting try that gave the home side momentum heading into half-time, momentum they quickly carried forward again in the second half.
"Jack de Belin was perhaps the only forward who wasn’t monstered [in the Charity Shield]," Ennis said.
"In the two games we’ve seen from de Belin this season, he’s been the Dragons’ best.
"Helped up front by Paul Vaughan, Russell Packer, Tyson Frizell and Joel Thompson, Cameron McInnes was able to play some creative football.
"Josh McCrone and Gareth Widdop played into the defensive line, using their quality back-rowers to their advantage."
The Round 2 issue of Big League is on sale now at newsagents, supermarkets and at the ground featuring the Broncos-Cowboys duel, Canberra's Shannon Boyd and Wests Tigers superstar James Tedesco. Digital version also available through www.zinio.com, Apple iTunes and Google Play.