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Souths Lack Killer Punch, Dragons Win

While talk after tonights game between Souths and the Dragons was around Gasnier touching down and Lang’s fury over perceived poor refereeing – the bottom line is South Sydney are lacking that late killer punch when the game’s on the line.

After being the dominant side for most of the match, Souths went down 16-13 to the Dragons – the Bunnies virtually doing everything right, except close the game out at the back-end.

It seemed Lang’s men were primed for an upset, South Sydney coming out extremely strong – they absolutely looked ‘up’ for this match. Their usual suspects in forwards Burgess and Taylor were again extremely dominant and hard to fault, there is no doubt – their big men are close to the best in the League.

Even halves Sutton and Sandow were doing their bit. They made the correct decisions for the most part, choosing the right times to take the line on or pop the pass. Sutton’s kicking game too was inch perfect.

With 10 minutes remaining in the game and the scores locked at 12 all, Souths through Sandow looked to have taken the right option to pot an early field goal to put them up 13-12.

The Dragons never really looked like winning this game until the final 10 minutes. Maybe it’s the confidence etched into champion sides over time, but the top teams pull out the big plays when their needed.

With Souths defending stoutly, pinning the Dragons deep in their own redzone – all it took was a sneaky little dummy half play by Neville Costigan to dummy one way, go the other, neatly spin and position Jason Nightingale on the outside of his man – the Kiwi flyer streaking away to setup Gasnier for a long-range try.

In the space of 30 seconds, the Dragons who had never really looked like winning this game – had toppled the seemingly more deserving side in Souths.

The loss would have been extremely hard to swallow for the Rabbitohs. Apart from playing well and doing very little wrong, they missed an ideal chance to bank a crucial 2 points.

With the NRL Ladder congested and the business end of the season upon us, they now remain on 20 points with a host of other teams around them.

For the Dragons, you can see the Bennett stamp becoming ever-present on this side. This was typical of a Brisbane performance of yesteryear – a champion team having an average night, but still having the confidence to pull a victory from nowhere.

Half Jamie Soward continues to grow in ability, his kicking again helping his side dig themselves out of tough situations. With their forwards getting bent back by the bigger Bunnies pack, the boot of Soward was the weapon that turned their rivals around time after time.

Gasnier will be better for the run, the elusive centre looking notably thinner but losing none of his footwork since leaving the NRL for French Rugby.

Wayne Bennett will however want to see his side score more points. The Dragons aren’t great chasers, they love playing from in front – with Penrith recently pipping them and now Souths going close to toppling them – the other teams are closing the gap.

The other thing for St George Illawarra is their ever-growing niggle in defence. Coming seemingly from frustration, the Dragons are occasionally lashing out with elbows and facial massages in tackles. The referees haven’t pinged them for it yet, but it surely wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by game-reviews in the past few weeks.

St George Illawarra are at home next week to the Titans. A victory for the Dragons would really hurt an out of sorts Titans side that needs to find their feet fast.

Souths will need to re-focus, as they host the Warriors in a match they simply must win.

Is Gaz Right for Dragons?

With Mark Gasnier set to rejoin the NRL, with a deal announcement expected before June 30 – will Gasnier still be a good fit for the Dragons? Or to put it another way, will the Dragons be a good fit for Gaz?

While CEO Peter Doubst is doing everything over at Kogarah to get Gasnier back into the fold, the truth is, much has changed at St George Illawarra since Gasnier left.

While Gaz has only been gone a year and a half, there have been a few personnel changes the likes of Jason Ryles, Justin Poore, Josh Morris and several others have departed – good mate and coach Nathan Brown is also long gone from the Dragons fold – in some ways its been a club rebuilt.

With new coach Wayne Bennett at the helm, the biggest change has been the culture. The belief is there and the responsibility isn’t falling on any one individual like it used to with Gaz or maybe Barrett in the old days.

This could work either way for Gasnier;

On a positive note – the newly forged Dragons are a defensive machine, winning the majority of their games and looking like good things for the NRL Premiership. They have a new seemingly much more positive culture and an enviable amount of depth in most positions. Much less pressure would fall on the shoulders of Gasnier as it used to do in previous years.

On the flipside – Gaz would have to earn his spot amongst hot competition. Younger, super confident backs in the form of Brett Morris, Jason Nightingale and Darius Boyd are all flying high. Any niggling injuries would surely see Gaz biding his team on the sidelines more quicker than in previous seasons. His good mate and former coach Nathan Brown is long gone and with Bennett at the helm it means that there wouldn’t be any selections favours for the former NSW centre.

What other options are available to Gasnier?

Some have suggested that the Newcastle Knights are the next option being considered by Gasnier and his management team. The Knights have room to move under the salary cap and would allow Gaz to escape the spotlight and pressure of Sydney to some extent.

However, at the Knights – Gasnier would instantly become a ‘marquee’ player and would get pressure in other forms. The location of Newcastle would either involve travel over long distances daily for training, or relocating to the the Steel Town – which wouldn’t be ideal given the sad family situation for Gaz and his partner’s father. Naturally they will want to be close to them in Sydney.

With the salary cap being so tight, apart from the Knights – there really doesn’t seem to be too many options open to Gaz at this stage. The Warriors do have a little room to move in their current situation, however moving over to NZ would certainly be out of the question for Gasnier.

The Raiders are another option, but again location proves a problem.

Most other clubs are seemingly up to their ears in salary cap quotas.

So it’s either his old club the Dragons with a whole new look and feel. Or the raw Knights, who may offer Gasnier the lower profile he has craved in recent times.

Given the pressing situation with his extended family, expect the Dragons to be favourites – regardless of the dollar figure in the short-term.