Dragons respond with season under threat
After just two wins in the past eight weeks, Dragons players concede a loss to Newcastle on Sunday would have been tough to come back from but hope the come-from-behind win will kick-start their back end of their season.
The Dragons looked shot going into the sheds down 28-10 having just conceded five unanswered tries but were by far the better team in the second stanza, putting on four tries to none to sneak home 32-28.
They lost form prop Paul Vaughan to a calf strain but front-rowers Leeson Ah Mau and Russell Packer lifted while Origin stars Tyson Frizell and Josh Dugan were wonderful backing up and skipper Gareth Widdop controlled proceedings with four try assists. Veteran winger Jason Nightingale was a key beneficiary, bringing up his 100th try with the middle score in his hat-trick.
"Our season, I wouldn't say it was on the line but all the hard work that we put in at the start of the year, we needed to put in a good performance because that end of the first half there was not us," back-rower Frizell said after the game.
Nightingale said after a disappointing few weeks, to lose at home after playing so poorly in the first half would have been to throw two competition points away.
"It would have been hard to come back from mentally [if we lost]," Nightingale said.
"It wouldn't have been doomsday but it would have taken a little bit of time to get over it I think and you don't have time to get over things in the NRL… we learned a lot from the way we played in the second half because that was more the type of footy that got us in the position that we were sitting a few weeks ago."
In his post-match press conference, coach Paul McGregor said his half-time address included a challenge to players to define who they are when they took the field in the second half, and the players responded.
"I think we did [define who we are] but we needed to do that," Frizell added.
"Our season was somewhat on the line. All that hard work we put in at the start of the year, as a team, it just wasn't up to scratch that first half."
Frizell said there were no issues over his fitness after his ankle was caught awkwardly in a tackle near the end of the game.
"Yeah it's all good. It just got stuck underneath the tackle, it was a bit more of a scare than anything. It's nothing too sore, that's just footy," Frizell said.
The signs weren't as good for prop Paul Vaughan, who was taken from the field in his 100th NRL game after just three minutes with a calf injury. Scans will determine how much footy the ex-Raider misses but it seems the best case scenario would have him return after the club's Round 18 bye.
"It's disappointing, he's had a great season so far," Frizell said.
"He would have been wanting to put in a massive performance for his 100th game. It's very disappointing to see that he might have done his calf. Footy can be a cruel game sometimes.
"Hopefully for him it's not too serious and he'll be back in a couple of weeks. He had ice on it straight away."