St George Illawarra’s offensive woes could be a thing of the past as Gareth Widdop sparked their attack in a way not seen in five NRL seasons in the Dragons’ 44-24 round one thumping of Wests Tigers.
Widdop had a hand in four of the Dragons’ seven tries and kicked eight goals from eight attempts, before 19,860 fans at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, to give the joint venture hope their days of a sputtering attack are over.
It was the most points the Dragons have scored in a single match since they thumped Manly 48-18 in round 18, 2009.
The Tigers started the better of the two sides to lead 12-0 after 11 minutes and 18-6 after 20 minutes.
But from there it was all the Dragons as they outscored the Tigers 38-6 in the final hour in Widdop’s first game for the club since he joined them this season on a four-year $2.2 million deal.
“It was a great win in the end, after they lead early we just had to stay composed and work our way back into it,” Widdop said.
“I was always confident I could come in (and make a difference).
“I always though it would take time but we have worked very well.
“But there is a lot to improve on. We need to keep getting better.”
Dragons coach Steve Price said Widdop brought a level of composure to his side that has been lacking in recent seasons.
“There was a level of calm in his performance,” Price said.
“He is a great leader and a great supporter of what we are trying to do here.”
Dragons skipper Ben Creagh said Widdop had already made a significant impact in his short time at the club.
“He has a lot of experience in those attacking situations so he is just what we need in our side,” Creagh said.
“We are always looking to score a lot of points and we will take a lot of confidence and belief out of that.”
But the Tigers confidence is certain to take a knock.
After opening the scoring through Pat Richards in just the fifth minute and James Tedesco illustrating he has lost none of his scorching pace, despite knee problems, five minutes later to race 60m to score the Tigers started the season in promising fashion.
But after Widdop put the Dragons ahead 20-18 at halftime courtesy of a penalty goal after the siren, the home side piled on the points in the second stanza with Ben Creagh, Gerard Beale, Michael Witt, Tyson Frizell, after a 14th minute touchdown, Mitch Rein and Adam Quinlan all scoring in the runaway win.
The victory was a significant turnaround from their thumping at the hands of South Sydney in their final trial.
“It was very pleasing, I was very happy with the way we rebounded from that,” Price said.
The Dragons admitted to targeting young Tigers halfback Luke Brooks in attack, a tactic that was successful.
Tigers coach Mick Potter was upset his team couldn’t hold the momentum of their good start.
“It was a disappointing second half,” he said.
“There were some poor last tackle options and they really put us under pressure.”
Michael Witt left the field in the second half with a shoulder injury and is doubt for the Dragons round two clash with the Warriors, alongside Jack de Bellin (leg).
Liam Fulton was knocked out in a clash with Tedesco, and didn’t return in accordance with the new concussion rules.
Tigers prop Aaron Woods was put on report for a 37th minute high shot on Dragons winger Brett Morris.