St George-Illawarra coach Paul McGregor is confident his team can still make the NRL finals despite dropping out of the top eight for the first time since March.
Saturday night’s 24-8 defeat to South Sydney extended the Dragons’ losing streak to six and put the finals hopes of the early-season pacesetters on life support.
McGregor said his team let themselves down against the Rabbitohs with poor game management, particularly with their kick chase.
“Three times we failed to control play one on a kick chase and they ran 100 metres and got repeat sets and they scored off them,” McGregor said post-game.
“If we spin it on its head and we lock them down there and we start out set in their half… that’s the way to build pressure and they didn’t do that.”
McGregor said the final scoreline didn’t reflect a tightly-fought contest that he believed was theirs for the taking with less than a quarter of the match remaining.
But he reiterated his team’s failure in putting pressure on the Rabbitohs, who had hooker Cameron McInnes limp off with an ankle injury early in the second half, when coming out of their own end.
“Those last two tries came from kicks,” he said.
“I thought we really built to a position where with 15 minutes to go we were really on top, to be totally honest.
“They had a few injuries there and we were rolling through that middle third quite comfortably.
“But we didn’t finish off with any quality in our kicks and when we did get a decent kick away, we managed to let them out of their end way too easy and you can’t do that.”
McGregor admitted his team did show signs of improvement on their recent losses and remained positive on their push for a finals spot – as long as they improve on their game management.
“The reality is we did a lot of good things in the game tonight to know we can win four of the next seven,” he said.
“But if you don’t learn and you don’t grow in the way of building pressure and applying a situation where they have to come out of their own end, you won’t win them games.”