Gareth Widdop has scored two tries and had a hand in two others in the Dragons’ crucial 28-12 NRL win over the Tigers.
A stricken Gareth Widdop climbed out of his sick bed to inspire St George-Illawarra to one of their best wins of the season on Sunday, a 28-12 triumph over Wests Tigers, to keep them in the hunt for the NRL finals.
Stricken by flu midweek and left unable to talk, Widdop blitzed the Tigers in the first half as the Dragons jumped out to a 22-0 lead before easing to the 16 point win, against a Wests side besieged by speculation over coach Mick Potter’s future.
Much of the pre-game focus was on Benji Marshall’s first game against his old club, but Widdop scored two first half tries, had a hand in two others, laid on the match-sealing try for Brett Morris in the 59th minute and kicked four from six goals in a commanding man-of-the-match effort.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor said it was a performance Widdop was working towards.
“Gareth had one of his better games in the last month,” McGregor said.
“It was coming, you could tell in his approach and some of the things he spoke about at training. The way he attacked the game.
“We’ve got a few blokes sick next door too. The heat and the way the game was played took a little bit out of them and he’s one of them. It’s a credit to him to push through that and have that display as a senior player.”
Widdop opened the scoring in the 20th minute after Morris broke the Dragons line and kicked ahead.
He laid on Gerard Beale’s try five minutes later when Morris cleverly batted down the England pivot’s kick and then claimed a double in the 30th minute when he chased down a Mitch Rein grubber after the Dragons hooker broke the Tigers line from dummy half.
Widdop was unable to talk to reporters post-game as Marshall paid tribute to his effort.
“Oh, he’s sick man,” he said.
“He couldn’t even speak during the week. I did most of the talking, organisational-wise and he just really stood up today. They were putting an extra number in defence on my side and he just took the ball every time and capitalised.”
Skipper Robbie Farah admitted the Tigers were distracted by pre-game reports Potter was to be axed at a board meeting on Sunday night.
“As a playing group we have tried to block it out but obviously it is pretty difficult,” he said.
“We did our best to get on with the job and play footy
A statement released by the board said a decision on Potter’s future would be deferred until the end of the season.
A Jason Nightingale try on the stroke of halftime lifted the visitors to a 22-0 lead.
The Tigers hit back after the break when Blake Austin dummied his way over in the 47th minute and Farah forced his way over from dummy half in the 51st minute.
A 59th minute Widdop penalty goal steadied the Dragons before Morris’ match-winner, with a lovely long ball from Widdop creating space out wide.
The win lifts the Dragons to 22 points and 10th place on the NRL ladder, with nine wins and nine losses, one place above the Tigers – and with a slew of teams on 22 points, from North Queensland in seventh to Parramatta in 12th, for and against is becoming increasingly important with finals looming.