Dragons coach Anthony Griffin said the side lost their emotional attachment to the game once Jordan Pereira was sin-binned for a high shot in their 34-10 Anzac Day loss to the Roosters.
Pereira was part of a pre-game reshuffle by Griffin on Sunday with the Dragons winger called up for his first match of the year in a move that allowed for Jack Bird to switch to five-eighth.
However, the afternoon soon turned sour for the 28-year-old when he collected James Tedesco high while attempting to shut down play on the left edge.
Rather than comment on the tackle itself, Griffin was disappointed in how the side responded, particularly after half-time when the Roosters also lost Ben Marschke for 10 minutes and the Dragons had an opportunity to take advantage in return.
"For whatever reason, once that [Pereira] sin bin came, we couldn't handle it, which we should've been able to," Griffin said.
Griffin says Hunt close, Bird could remain at six
"I thought emotionally we started to lose contact with the contest. We tried to adjust some things we were doing with the ball but we handed them six points again with a dropped ball from a kick after half-time.
"It wasn't us, we've been really good for six weeks, even the two losses we've had I thought we've really competed.
"For whatever reason, once the pressure came on we lost contact with each other and became individuals which was the disappointing thing. It's disappointing that performance came today in such a big game."
Match Highlights: Roosters v Dragons
Griffin said he opted to play Bird in the halves to get the former Bronco closer to the action in a move that started positively but had little impact on the result in the end.
The likely return of Ben Hunt, who is close to a comeback from a broken leg, could help the make-up of the spine next week, although Griffin said they needed more than just their captain's positive attitude after back-to-back losses.
"He was close, but we're not going to take a risk with him, in the context in the length of the season," Griffin said.
"If it was a semi-final or grand final he might've played. He wasn't part of that today, it's up to all of us.
"When our backs were against the wall before half-time something wasn't right. That's not Ben Hunt's job to fix [when he returns]."
The Dragons face the struggling Wests Tigers at WIN Stadium next Sunday.
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