Three straight wins have St George Illawarra on the cusp of the top eight with the club finding it’s resilience in recent weeks, but it will take more than a stout heart and a winning attitude if they’re to stop the Melbourne Storm juggernaut on Sunday.
- St George Illawarra have won three straight games to breath life into their season
- This week, the Dragons will be the latest team to face the seemingly unstoppable Melbourne Storm
- The Dragons have not won in Victoria since 1999
The Dragons 12-6 win over the Tigers on Sunday, like their victories over the Roosters on Anzac Day and the Knights on Easter Sunday, have breathed life into the joint venture’s season.
But with the Storm running in outrageous amounts of points in recent weeks, Anthony Griffin’s side will need to step it up another gear if they’re to trouble the Victorians and prove they’ve got what it takes to hang with the NRL’s superpowers.
“They’re the benchmark of the competition and they’re blowing sides off the park. We have to go down there with a mindset of defending them and we have to throw as much as we can at them,” fullback Moses Mbye said.
“I wish I knew (why they were so good). I don’t know. I think there’s 15 other clubs sitting there going ‘what’s so good about these bastards’ because they’re just so good.
“They just continue to get better and better. It’ll be a big feat, a big challenge for us, but we’ll go down there with the right attitude.”
The blueprint for an AAMI Park ambush is clear — each of the Dragons recent victories has been built on great defensive resolve, a far cry from their run between Round 2 and Round 5 when they conceded an average of 32 points per game.
Mbye has played his part in that improvement. After a rough start in taking over for Tyrell Sloan at fullback, his defensive contributions from the back have improved by the week, as has his communication and organisation of the defensive line.
“It’s an attitude thing. It’s a cliché that defence is an attitude, but that proves that point. We have a really good system in place, but I don’t think it’s too different to a lot of other teams,” Mbye said.
“It’s the mindest we’re in to execute that defensive plan. From the back I get to sit back and watch it from the best seat in the house. It feels comfortable. We’re turning teams away and absorbing a lot of shots.
“We’ve built a lot of momentum over the last couple of weeks.”
If the Dragons are to muzzle a blistering Melbourne attack that has averaged 45.6 points per match over the past five weeks they’ll not only have to replicate the efforts of recent weeks, but exceed them.
It would take a brave punter to take the heavy underdogs to claim their first win in Melbourne since 1999, and the Dragons themselves conceded their win over the Tigers was short on style points, but the narrow victory did show how far this team has come in a few short weeks.
The win over the Roosters on Anzac Day was perhaps the club’s best under Anthony Griffin, and backing up from that high was always going to be a tall order.
“That’s where the structures are important. Structures give you a great guideline to follow. There was a lot of emotional stress, Anzac Day was a big occasion, and a new occasion for a lot of guys including myself. It was draining,” Mbye said.
“You couple that with a short turnaround and it’s quite a taxing experience. We got away with it because we gritted our way through the gameplan.
“We weren’t classy, we weren’t flash at all, but we were gritty, we worked hard and we fought hard.
“This win was important because of how the Tigers are playing. They’re a team that completes really high, so they had a great weight of possession, and we were up against it in the penalty count until the 70th minute or so.
“There was a lot of pressure and adversity to overcome, so that’s the pleasing thing.”
The Dragons have struggled against the Storm in recent years, having last beaten a full-strength Melbourne side in 2018.
However, they’ve performed credibly in their sole match against the other main premiership contenders this season – their 20-16 loss to Penrith in Round 2 is the Panthers narrowest win of 2022 thus far.