Benji back to lift Dragons: Widdop

St George Illawarra hope the return of halfback Benji Marshall against an Origin-depleted North Queensland will help get their stuttering NRL season back on track.

The Dragons host premiers the Cowboys – who will be without Origin quartet Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan, Justin O’Neill and Matt Scott – on Saturday night at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.

Off-contract veteran Marshall missed last week’s 34-24 loss to South Sydney, but will be back to partner five-eighth Gareth Widdop for just his sixth appearance of the year after overcoming a hamstring injury.

With the Cowboys set to field fullback Lachlan Coote and Ray Thompson as makeshift halves, Widdop is hopeful Marshall’s inclusion will give the Dragons the edge.

“Obviously they’ve lost JT and Morgan, who are great players and the key to a lot of their attack,” Widdop said on Wednesday.

“It’s been disappointing with Benji, (he’s) been out of the team pretty much all year.

“Hopefully now we can get a bit of consistency with the team, how we’re playing and move forward.

“If we can do that, hopefully with the experience we’ve got we can come away with the win.”

Prop Mike Cooper said there wasn’t much wrong with the Dragons’ last performance – except defensively, where they conceded five tries from kicks.

“That isn’t up to standard,” Cooper said.

“If we get that bit right, it’s pretty easily fixed.

“We’re certainly heading in the right direction, we did a lot of good things in that game.”

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