McGregor’s full-time tenure as Dragons coach off to perfect start

Benji Marshall

On the back of the club opting to retain him as head coach for three seasons, the St George Illawarra Dragons have kick-started the full-time coaching tenure of Paul McGregor with a win.

Coming into the game needing a win to keep their slim finals hopes alive, the Dragons were clinical and overpowered a rather poor Titans side, taking the game 34-6 in front of a vocal home crowd.

The win improved their for and against drastically and has them just two points outside the eight with their finals destiny now in their own hands.

The road is not easy, though, and despite their recent comprehensive win, they have another hoodoo to break next week – winning in Brisbane.

It was really one-way traffic throughout the game as the Dragons made the most of their chances and had their key players step up when it mattered.

For the Titans, it has not been the best recent stretch – they are currently on a five-game losing streak.

It could have been even more disappointing had Anthony Don not scored a try for the Titans, with the Gold Coast-based club never held scoreless in their eight-year history.

With many initially questioning the signing of Benji Marshall, the former Tigers half drew praise galore from coach McGregor, who lauded the composure and play of the halfback.

“The composure that Benji’s starting to play with, he’s just going to get better at it at and better at it,” McGregor said.

“He’s a leader, he’s one of our most experienced players and he’s not that bloke that he was 10 years ago. He’s a different player.

“With his experience, when he first came through he was a brilliant player, still is, but he used to play off the cuff a touch.

“He used to get the ball in his hands and anything could happen. Now he’s got players around him that can also score points. What we need from him is to get the ball in the right hands.”

As for the Titans, the message post-game was plain and simple by interim coach Neil Henry. They were not up to first-grade standard.

“I said to the boys after ‘that’s just not a first grade performance,’ regardless of who’s on the park,” Henry said.

“We know we’re a bit depleted but we didn’t match any intensity early and paid the price, which is disappointing.”

Despite celebrating two milestones – Luke Bailey, Daniel Mortimer & Greg Bird – the Titans were off the pace and it left Henry disappointed.

“We lacked real intensity in the game,” Henry said.

“They’re playing for their season and a chance to be in the eight and we’re gone and we’re playing like a side with two games to go and it’s over, which is disappointing.

“We had a couple of milestones to celebrate today. Bailey’s 150th for the club, Bird’s 200th NRL appearance and Daniel Mortimer’s 100th game all fell on the same game.

“We were off the pace today. We didn’t have the right mentality to get out there and slog it out for whatever reason.

St. George Illawarra Dragons 34 (B Marshall, B Morris, J Nightingale, J Dugan, G Beale, J Thompson tries; G Widdop 5 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 6 (A Don try; A Sezer goal) at Jubilee Oval. Crowd: 9,584

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