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Dragons coach Paul McGregor insists he put the team first in deciding centre Josh Dugan would be stood down from Sunday's clash with the Panthers for failing to turn up in time for the team bus.

McGregor sensationally left Dugan out of the team line-up despite the Australian international making his own way to the foot of the mountains.

St George Illawarra made late positional changes as a result of the decision with utility Kurt Mann slotting into Dugan's vacant centre position. 

The Dragons secured a two-point victory over Penrith without the Origin representative after questions were raised from fans and media whether the incident warranted his omission with the team's season on the line.

"Discipline is important to our footy team and on game day especially," McGregor said.

"[Dugan] didn't arrive on time after we spoke about what was needed most recently. 

"I know the conversation will be centred around it being Round 25 with the season on the line but we want to drive standards.

"It doesn't matter what round it is or what's on the line. Our club needed to make a statement, whether it be Josh or any other player."

McGregor confirmed Dugan remained in Penrith to watch his teammates scrape a valuable win, but give no indication of whether the 27-year-old was a guarantee to return against the Bulldogs. 

The coach insisted it was he – not the players – who made the decision.

"He was fine, he knows our standard," McGregor said of Dugan's reaction.

"He's cheering hard in the sheds [but] next week is next week and let's worry about celebrating tonight."

Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop supported the decision to stand Dugan down.

"We've got standards within our playing group and I fully support the decision," he said.

"We're professional athletes and have got to do the right thing."

Meanwhile, the pair were buoyed by the crucial win over the Panthers.

Penrith have been dominant in the second halves of clashes this season and again kept their opposition tryless in the final 20 minutes, but unlike their previous seven encounters they couldn't deliver the final blow.

"Momentum is big in sport and I thought we had it for a while then they changed it in their way," McGregor said.

"The good thing about today was how we come out of that. For me it's nothing but praise."

A win next week against the Bulldogs would secure a spot for the Dragons in the Telstra Premiership top eight.

"The key to making finals football is in our hands, we've just got to make it happen with one more game of footy," McGregor said. 

"We're capable of doing it."


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