St George Illawarra have sunk to sixth spot on the NRL ladder following a 24-10 loss to Parramatta – their lowest position since round two of this year.
The competition’s high flyers over the opening month of the season, the Dragons have now lost five of their past seven to fall from top spot on the table.
Coach Paul McGregor pointed to a less patient attack as central to the team’s problems, after they broke the line six times to the Eels’ two, but scored only 10 points.
It also came after they went try-less last week against Canterbury, while their attacking output over their past seven games has dropped to an average of 15 points, compared with 27 over their first seven weeks.
“As a group we’ve gone away from completing high and working hard for each other and just trying to score and put ourselves under pressure,” McGregor said.
“They put us under pressure, got four drop outs and we didn’t get any things like that. We’ve got to be better.”
McGregor also hinted that the disruption of Gareth Widdop’s injury in round eight, along with the loss of Tyson Frizell and Josh Dugan to Origin camp, had stunted the team’s attack.
“We’ve had a bit distraction over the past couple of weeks with players in and out and the bye,” he said.
“There’s a lot of blokes that care in that shed and when that happens sometimes you put yourself under too much pressure and you freeze a little bit.”
Elsewhere in round 15 three young guns stood out.
Brodie Croft (Melbourne), Kurt Capewell (Cronulla) and Angus Crichton (Souths) had big games in the Origin-affected around.
Croft showed why he is considered Cooper Cronk’s heir to the throne at Melbourne, when he kicked the golden-point field goal in the Storm’s 23-22 win over North Queensland on Saturday night.
The Australia under-20s captain also had a hand in one try in his second NRL match, as the Storm kept their four-point gap at the top of the ladder over the Sydney Roosters.
In Cronulla, 23-year-old Capewell scored twice and ran 223 metres in the centres, as he broke through nine tackles in the Sharks’ come-from-behind 24-22 win over the Wests Tigers.
In the same match Tigers debutant Matt Eisenhuth totalled 153 metres off the bench, while teammate Esan Marsters also looked good in his third NRL game in the centres.
But the star of the round was South Sydney rookie Crichton against the Gold Coast on Friday night.
Without captain Sam Burgess, the 21-year-old Rabbitohs second-rower scored his first hat-trick and busted through seven tackles as the Bunnies came from 14-0 down to beat the Titans.