St George Illawarra will face just two top eight sides in their final nine matches before the NRL finals.
They’ve been gifted a saloon passage to the NRL finals but St George Illawarra have been handed a sobering reminder that nothing comes easy by cellar dwellers Newcastle.
Paul McGregor’s Dragons looked anything but title contenders after they were forced to come from behind against lowly Newcastle at UOW Jubilee Oval on Sunday.
Down 28-10 at the break, they at one point looked headed for a dramatic loss and were booed off the ground by their own fans at halftime.
The win was anything but convincing yet the Red V are still well in the hunt for the top four due to their dream draw which will see them face just two current top eight sides in their final nine regular round games.
Outside of Brisbane (third) and Manly (fourth), they will only face sides below them in their run home.
“There’s no easy games,” back-rower Tyson Frizell said after playing a key hand in the 32-28 win backing up just four days after State of Origin II.
“They’re a pretty tough side and they showed it there in the first half.
“Hopefully that just gave us a bit of confidence. We’re down on confidence coming off a couple of losses and it was a game we really needed to get stuck into and get the two points.”
The Dragons remained in sixth just two points outside the top four after snapping a two-game losing streak and it could prove a turning point in their season.
They have looked well below their best since losing to the Sydney Roosters in a heart-breaker on Anzac Day.
Prior to Sunday they had lost five of their previous seven matches and risked falling to the edge of the top eight had they not found something special to score four unanswered tries to finish over the top of 15th placed Newcastle.
Frizell admitted the match was a line-in-the-sand moment and hoped it was a catalyst to bigger and better things.
“We needed to put in a second-half performance. Our season, I wouldn’t say it was one the line, but it could have undone some of the hard work we did at the start of the year,” Frizell said.
“That end to the first half just wasn’t us.”
DRAGONS’ RUN HOME
* Round 17 – Gold Coast (a), 14th
* Round 19 – Canberra (a), 11th
* Round 20 – Manly (h), 4th
* Round 21 – Newcastle (a), 15th
* Round 22 – South Sydney (h), 12th
* Round 21 – Gold Coast (h), 14th
* Round 22 – Brisbane (a), 3rd
* Round 23 – Penrith (a), 9th
* Round 24 – Canterbury (h), 13th