The Dragons stunned the rugby league community last Sunday afternoon by lampooning the Broncos in front of a packed Suncorp Stadium.
The Red V ran riot. No team in the competition would have been able to stop that first half onslaught led by the red hot Tariq Sims.
The win has seen the Dragons progress a week further in the finals than 98% of non Dragons fans would have expected, myself included.
This sets up a mouth watering, all-Sydney clash tonight with the Bunnies at ANZ Stadium.
We look at why the Dragons can win the title in 2018, and also the reasons why they cannot lift the trophy.
Why the Dragons can win the title:
– Dominant pack: The poor Broncos had a horror time trying to contain the mighty Red V pack. Tariq Sims was a monster while Tyson Frizell bashed everything and everyone. They were so dominant that not even injuries to Jack de Belin and James Graham could slow them down. From there the Dragons’ halves and outside backs ran riot. As good as Ben Hunt and co were, this was a game won by the forwards for the Red V. This all rep pack can beat any side’s big men on their day. On their best day I’m not sure too many can match them.
– Dominant half: Ok Ben Hunt hasn’t had a marvellous season, but when he has been good, he has been REALLY good. Hunt is able to boss a game. I’m not talking in the way other halves can carve sides up out of nowhere, but in the way he dictates where the game is played. When he’s on he guides his side around with the boot and can pin sides down in their own area. That takes it out of opposition forwards and creates an advantage for his big men. Hunt’s abilities are hugely under valued as he lacks the spark of the likes of Johnathan Thurston or Cooper Cronk, but trust me, if he’s at his best, the Dragons can bounce the Bunnies.
– Nothing to lose: This may sound like a cop out of sorts but we’ve seen what the Dragons can do when the pressure is off. They destroyed the Broncos last week on the back of a brand of footy they trusted and executed to perfection. No one expects them to beat Souths. No way they’ll beat the Roosters either. The Storm/Sharks … no chance … except they totally can. Pressure is a difficult thing to measure. The pressure is off for the Dragons in terms of expectations, plus no professional likes to be told they can’t do something. Dangerous combo for the Bunnies.
Why the Dragons cannot win the title
– Lack of flair: The injury to Gareth Widdop puts the Dragons on the back foot in a big way. As good as Ben Hunt is, he’s not going to bust a game wide open with magical footwork and pace. Kurt Mann will partner him in the halves. He is a solid player with plenty of talent but he is not Widdop. Zac Lomax has been brought into the side to provide flair but he’s a rookie under huge pressure. Matt Dufty has shown some incredible form in 2018 yet has fallen away recently. They need to find line breaks to beat the Bunnies and Roosters.
– If they’re bad, they’re awful: I like to joke that the Warriors and Titans are the NRL’s Jekyll and Hyde, but my word can the Dragons be guilty. If they drop the ball in the first set, game’s done. That’s hyperbole 101 at its finest but it’s sadly not too far from the mark. If the ball sticks tonight, the Dragons can win. If not, this could get ugly. You just don’t know which Dragons side will turn up, the side that bossed teams for the first two months, or the side that has been made a laughing stock in the second half of the season. Heads or tails?
If the Dragons get off to a good start, they could really roll the Bunnies. If not, then it’s the Bunnies by how much? Or is it?
I just can’t predict the Dragons. For the first two months of the season I kept saying “they’ll fall away” … “this weekend” … “umm, maybe” … then BOOM!!!
This is a side that can beat anyone. They already have. This is also a side that can make the Eels look like world beaters.
Good luck fans in the Red V.