- As it happened
- Paul McGregor takes pride in Dragons' hard centre
- Cameron Smith backs Will Chambers for Origin III
Josh Dugan overcame leg and finger injuries to help St George Illawarra to a victory over Melbourne at WIN Stadium that can only have enhanced the prospects of caretaker coach Paul McGregor being given the job on a permanent basis.
With star playmaker Benji Marshall turning in his best performance since joining the club six weeks ago, the Dragons outclassed the Storm to pile on five tries to one in a 24-12 win that has them now just two points outside the top eight.
While Wayne Bennett has been linked with a return to St George Illawarra and Fairfax Media reported on Sunday night that Tim Sheens was also a contender, McGregor must now be under strong consideration for the job after guiding his team to a comprehensive victory over a Melbourne side whose coach Craig Bellamy is believed to be the Dragons No.1 target if he was willing to leave the Storm.
Since taking over the coaching role from his close friend Steve Price, McGregor has overseen three wins from five matches and made notable changes to both personnel and the team's style that have resulted in improvements in both attack and defence.
One of the key changes has been the decision to move Dugan from fullback to right centre and he scored a try and laid on another for winger Jason Nightingale in a performance that highlighted why NSW coach Laurie Daley will again name him on Tuesday as the man to mark Greg Inglis in Origin III at Suncorp Stadium.
Dugan's feats were even more remarkable after suffering an ankle injury in a tackle by Blues team-mate Ryan Hoffman just before halftime and then injuring his finger in the second half.
Remarkably, Dugan had the finger attended to by St George Illawarra medical staff and immediately chimed into the Dragons backline to make a break before putting Nightingale over with a flick pass that resulted in him needing treatment again immediately afterwards.
Earlier, he had got the Dragons off to the best possible start by running over the top of Slater to cross in the sixth minute after a Benji Marshall kick had forced a repeat set.
English five-eighth Gareth Widdop then put the home side further ahead against his former side when he chipped ahead and received the perfect bounce to regather and score his first try for St George Illawarra in the 15th minute.
Slater reduced the Dragons lead to 10-6 when he backed up a Will Chambers break to cross out wide in the 27th minute and the scores remained that way until halftime.
Another Marshall kick, this time a grubber, led to St George Illawarra's next try after the ball ricocheted off the leg of Storm halfback Ben Roberts and hooker Mitch Rein collected it to cross untouched in the 53rd minute to restore the Dragons 10 point lead.
Nightingale sealed the win when he finished a sweeping movement from the left side of the field to the right that culminated with Dugan busting through the attempted tackle of Kurt Mann and Mahe Fonua before flicking the ball to the New Zealand international.
Rookie Charly Runciman finished the scoring for St George Illawarra when he latched onto a long ball from Widdop that gave him a clear run at the try line to score in the 70th minute.