Leilua comes of age with match-winning display against Tigers
The 17th game of Luciano Leilua's young NRL career was comfortably his best as the emerging back-rower tore apart the Wests Tigers right edge on Saturday - but the challenge for him now according to his coach is to back it up.
Speaking after the 20-10 result which returned the team to the top four of the Telstra Premiership ladder and all but ended the Tigers' season, McGregor had some heavy praise for Leilua.
"Without a doubt [it was his best game]," McGergor said.
"We just spoke about that in the sheds, that's something now that should be his standard game.
"We see that talent often at training when we do any opposed at training, he's the player on the opposition if he's in reserve grade just puts us under the most threat.
"He went out today and played with that threat in first grade. It's about maintaining that standard now for him consistently."
Leilua finished the match with 40 tackles, seven busts, three offloads, 128 metres, a try and a line break assist.
He brushed through Benji Marshall and Esan Marsters to send Kurt Mann into space to set up the team's opening try to Jordan Pereira in the 27th minute and barrelled straight over the top of Michael Chee Kam to score one of his own in the 63rd.
Speaking to media after the game (via a quick visit to the club doctor to have a few stitches put in a cut to his right eyebrow), Leilua agreed it was his best game to date and was relishing the chance to start and play big minutes since the injury to starting prop Paul Vaughan.
"I think that's where the bar's set now so I've got to live up to that and play with confidence and hopefully I can be a regular first grader," he said.
"I think it was one of my best games in first grade so hopefully more to come."
With the Dragons dominating through their established forward pack over the opening three or four months of the competition and suffering almost no injuries, Leilua has had to wait for a solid chance in first grade.
"I was just being patient, waiting for the time, it was up to Mary (McGregor)," he said.
"I was happy to be the impact player. Now he's giving me the chance to start.
"I always wanted to start and get some big minutes to credit so Mary for believing in me, it's been good."
And that memorable four-pointer?
"I just got lucky today [with the try]," he laughed.
"The game plan was to play through and I was lucky to get the try.
"I like starting but I'm here for the team."