Turns out Benji Marshall wasn’t the only one to be called out in Wollongong last week, with Tariq Sims also copping a serve from St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor.
However, both players responded positively to their dressing down with leading performances in the Dragons’ 32-18 boilover of Cronulla on Saturday night to earn some praise from their coach.
While Marshall and McGregor made plenty of headlines for what the Dragons’ No.7 described as a “healthy debate” during a video review last week, Sims revealed he too had been ordered to lift his game.
And the former Newcastle forward responded with a heroic two-try effort, while also setting up a third.
“‘Mary’, (McGregor) he’s great at challenging individuals and he challenged me through the week. I’d like to think that I responded the way that he wanted me to,” Sims said.
McGregor said it was exactly the reply he was looking for from his bench forward.
“As soon as he came on, he made immediate impact. That’s what you want from a player of his capabilities coming off the interchange,” McGregor said.
Sims’ best performance in the Red V was soured by an ankle injury that will require scans.
“Unfortunately got a strain in the ankle there late in the game. Not too sure how bad that is but we’ll get it checked and hopefully it won’t keep him out for many games,” McGregor said.
McGregor also lauded the bounce-back from Marshall, who put a disappointing outing against Brisbane behind him by setting up two tries in an improved display against the Sharks.
“That’s how you want your playmakers to be. You want them to build pressure and then when the opportunity presents itself, create tries,” McGregor said.
“To come off a game like he did last week, and the pressure he’s been under from all sorts of different areas, to come out and play like that, is really good. It’ll give him confidence going into next week.”
The win temporarily leaves the 11th-placed Dragons just two points shy of eighth-placed Penrith ahead of the Panthers’ match against Newcastle on Sunday.
McGregor admitted his team would need to win their final three games of the regular season but, with Leeson Ah Mau to return from suspension next week, refused to give up hope of a late finals push.
Their remaining three games are against the lowly Sydney Roosters, Parramatta and Newcastle.
“We had three back tonight that we missed last week in (Tyson) Frizell, (Joel) Thompson and (Josh) Dugan, they all got through well,” he said.
“We’re getting some troops back and we’re playing all sides below us in the competition so it’s certainly in our hands. We’ve got to keep getting a bit better each week like we did tonight. You never know.”