Following a rough start to the season both on and off the field and the forced re-shuffle of their much-maligned spine, the Dragons have begun to look like the premiership contenders they were tipped to be after winning four on the trot. However, if they are to remain in the top half of the competition there is another issue they must address, their leaky right edge defence.
While Euan Aitken and Mikaele Ravalawa have proved to be quite the handful in attack, with seven-try involvements between them in the opening six rounds, their defensive frailties far outweigh their attacking prowess.
The numbers do not paint a pretty picture for the Dragons’ right edge combination, with Aitken and Ravalawa ranking third and last respectively amongst all Dragons for tackle efficiency, as well as Ravalawa ranking first for try causes with seven, and Aitken ranking third in the same metric contributing three.
The Dragons have conceded a reasonable but not outstanding 20 tries over the opening six rounds of the competition, ranking seventh in the competition. However, unfortunately for the Red V, 11 of those tries have come through their right edge, with the middle conceding six and the left edge a slender three, clearly displaying a weakness to opposition teams.
Luckily for the Dragons’ faithful, coach Paul McGregor is thinking the same thing. Opting to start the man anointed by Brad Fittler as “the gifted one”, Zac Lomax, on the right wing for their ANZAC Day clash with arch-rivals the Roosters. While the Dragons did concede one try down their right on Thursday, a dropped bomb leading to a Latrell Mitchell try, Lomax and Aitken looked like a much more defensively solid combination. The pair communicated well and defended in unison, rather than one shooting up and one staying back like Ravalawa and Aitken did regularly across the first six rounds.
Another advantage to Lomax starting is he would provide St George Illawarra with a genuine goal-kicking option, following the injury to skipper and goal kicker Gareth Widdop as well as the less than impressive performances of centre Tim Lafai off the kicking tee. Culminating in a less than impressive 2/5 shots against Manly in round six, in which two of these missed kicks Lafai could have thrown over with his eyes shut. Lomax displayed over the back end of 2018 that he is more than capable off the tee, nailing 85% of his attempts.
While the Dragons are slowly gathering momentum on the field following a chequered off-season, if they are to be the premiership contender many pundits have tipped them to be, coach McGregor is going to have to find a solution to his leaky right edge. Here’s hoping for Dragons fans that solution has come in the form of the 19-year-old Lomax.