McGregor fronts up as Dragons slide continues
PAUL McGregor knew the question was coming. Had to.
For after leading the competition until a month ago - and looking every inch premiership contenders - his St George Illawarra Dragons have suddenly lost three of four, only squeaked home against Parramatta and leaked 36 points against the Sydney Roosters.
So are the Dragons sliding?
Certainly, they have form.
And a performance like this one, when for large chunks they not only gave up a heap of points but looked incapable of finding any themselves, the Dragons coach has to know the questions are now coming. Right?
"Yeah, look I understand that," McGregor said.
"When you're not winning games, and get beaten by the scoreline we did today, I can understand the question.
"But we just have to manage what we know.
"We played well against North Queensland last week and before that, against Wests Tigers, that was after an Origin (for which the Dragons provided five players). I think today the opposition was good and we weren't at that level.
"They're a good side the Roosters. Every team at different stages of the year will be playing their best footy and I think the Roosters right now are close to their best."
Yet the Dragons? Um, no.
In attack, the Red V never built pressure. Nor did they threaten.
Too often with Steeden in hand they shifted the ball across field without offering any changes of angle, trick shots or much of anything.
Defensively, too, the visitors struggled.
So what will be keeping McGregor up nights this week? Conceding 36 points or finding only 18, a dozen of which came only when the game was done?
"Well, scoring 18 should win you a game," he said.
"But leaking 36, you can't beat anyone. And our one-on-one misses were quite poor.
"Yes, the opposition showed some individual brilliance … but we've got to make those tackles. Our edges, we have to make the one-on-ones when we need to.
"Last week against the Cowboys we missed 13 tackles. This week it was 36. The sums are there."
And so we wait.
Remembering that a year ago, when St George Illawarra led the competition after seven rounds, they then faded so badly that the finals were missed altogether.
But this mob?
While missing the finals is almost impossible, the Dragons now sit fourth - the lowest they've been all year - although they have only one game against another top-eight side, the Warriors, before playoff time.
The rest of their run includes Parramatta, Wests Tigers, the Bulldogs and Newcastle.
All of which means we may have to wait until September to find out exactly what sort of side the Dragons really are.