NSW blew it. Josh Dugan admits as much, but the St George Illawarra fullback insists the Blues won’t carry any mental baggage from their game two defeat into the decider at Suncorp Stadium in three weeks’ time.
Dugan was among the Blues best in the 18-16 loss, saving what looked like a certain try to Michael Morgan on the stroke of halftime and producing a strong cameo at fullback after James Tedesco left the field for an HIA late in the second half.
It wasn’t enough to get his side home, with Jonathan Thurston’s sideline conversion snatching a last gasp Maroons victory.
“It’s a pretty sombre feeling, I think it was definitely one we let slip,” Dugan said post-match.
“We were probably guilty of putting the cue in the rack and trying to defend our lead rather than playing the footy that got us there in the first place.
“We were having a fair bit of success up the middle and playing fast and flat but I think we probably tried to push a few passes that weren’t on and went away from our game plan.
“We came up with come crucial errors that gave Queensland a sniff and they ended up getting away with it. Queensland’s a quality side, they’re always going to turn up at the end and we just fell short.”
It was certainly a tough pill to swallow, but Dugan said the loss won’t leave his side with any lingering mental scars heading into a decider that will be a farewell match for Thurston and, most likely, Cooper Cronk.
“We played some of the best footy NSW has played in a number of years up there in game one and again for the first 60 minutes [on Wednesday] we played our style of footy,” Dugan said.
“In that last 20 we just went away from it. Opportunities arose for us but we just weren’t executing and that’s the lesson we need to take from it, executing in those pressure moments.
“Almost isn’t good enough anymore. We’ve got to come up with those big plays at big times. We’ll learn from it and hopefully go up there game three and do it again.”
Dugan will now turn his attention to arresting a two game losing streak when the Dragons take on Newcastle at Kogarah on Sunday, after coming through the match unscathed.
“I just copped a bit of knock on the inside of my knee but I’ll definitely be right to go,” Dugan said.
“It’s been a tough few weeks for the boys but hopefully me and Friz [Tyson Frizell] can get back there bring some energy and hopefully get the win on Sunday.”
Frizell was also one of NSW’s best despite needing a pain-killing injection to carry a niggling rib cartilage injury through the game. He’s confident he’ll be right to back up for the Dragons where he looms as the likely replacement for the suspended Jack de Belin at lock.
“I’ve had a couple of niggling injuries hanging around for a while now so it’s nothing too different,” Frizell told the NSWRL.com.
IN THE SHEDSWe spoke to Tyson Frizell after the heartbreaking loss last night.
Posted by NSW Blues on Wednesday, June 21, 2017
“In big games like this you put it aside. It’s nothing too serious. I’ll be fine [to back up], it’s just something I’ve got to carry.”