AAP Rugby

Dragons miss chance in NRL final, not year

By AAP Newswire

Paul McGregor admits St George Illawarra missed an opportunity in Saturday's topsy-turvy one-point NRL semi-final loss to South Sydney but insists the year has not gone to waste.

McGregor refused to put the blame one any individual players after Saturday's 13-12 loss, despite his his side leading 10-2 with 25 minutes to play and 12-11 just moments from fulltime.

The result capped off a tough end of the season for the Saints, who led the competition for 15 of the first 16 rounds but finished seventh before beating Brisbane in week one of the finals.

"Today is an opportunity missed for sure," McGregor said.

"We had it, we lost it. We had it.

"It came down to the field goal the difference in the end.

"But it's definitely bounds forwards, not steps (for our season).

"It's been our most successful year since 2011. We've got some real youth.

"Four or five guys whose main goal was to play first grade and they've played most the year and finished in the second week of the semi-final series."

Front-runners for the first half of the year, the Dragons won just two of eight games between rounds 17 and 24 as pressure mounted on them and halfback Ben Hunt.

They also suffered crucial injuries with Gareth Widdop and Paul Vaughan sidelined, while Tariq Sims' knee injury in the 42nd minute on Saturday was a crucial blow.

"Everyone wants to talk about everything negative (about our year)," McGregor said.

"But if you go back and look at the year everyone is going to have a period where they're not playing well.

"Ours was obviously at the back end of the year after a pretty heavy load through the middle third with the Origin players we haven't had in there before.

"With the type of footy we played for the first 10 or 12 weeks, there has to be a drop somewhere because to sustain that week in week out hasn't happened in the competition."

In a chaotic final 10 minutes at ANZ Stadium against the Rabbitohs both sides pulled off one-on-one strips in the lead up to points.

Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes was penalised for throwing the ball into a defender lying in the ruck - a call McGgegor disagreed with and argued should've been ruled play on.

Crucially, the Dragons themselves also put Souths in the position for their match-winning set, unsuccessfully opting to run the ball on the last tackle from within their own end with a minute to play and only handing possession over.

But McGregor wouldn't apportion blame for that post match.

"You can break the game down a fair bit if you like but that's not for this press conference," he said.

"I'm not going to turn on a player who didn't make the right decision.

"Going forward it's a great experience for these guys to make sure next time they get it right."