St George Illawarra have budgeted for four wins from five games in their run to the finals ahead of their clash with Penrith.
Josh Dugan describes it as “brilliance” but only a glimpse of what Benji Marshall is capable of doing for St George Illawarra in their run home this season.
The Dragons face Penrith in a crucial match at WIN Stadium on Sunday, with Marshall coming off a strong performance in last week’s 30-22 loss to the Sydney Roosters.
Marshall turned back the clock with a magnificent stepping effort to score a late try against the Roosters before laying one on for Dugan with a great pass in the dying minutes.
“He showed his brilliance on the weekend with his solo try and it’s a glimpse of what he can produce,” Dugan said.
The Dragons and NSW Origin centre said Marshall’s combination with five-eighth Gareth Widdop was growing with each round since the New Zealander linked with the joint venture in May.
“It is getting strong and that’s from playing together,” Dugan said.
“When (Marshall) first came in, everyone was still getting used to the way he played and I think everyone is used to that now and everyone knows what to expect.”
Dugan admits the Dragons’ form has been patchy of late and they have been guilty of drifting in and out of games.
The Dragons are 11th on the ladder and are budgeting that four wins from five games in the run home will get them over the line.
Former Canberra star Dugan admits his side view all of their final matches – against the Panthers (3rd), the Raiders (15th), Gold Coast (13th), Brisbane (9th) and Newcastle (14th) – as winnable.
“It’s the back end of the season so we can’t afford to lose any more games,” he said.
“We need to win four of our last five, I think. I feel like they’re all winnable.”
For the Panthers, they are on 28 points and coming off a character-building win over Canterbury.
While inside the top four, they have not yet reached the magical 30-point mark, which is being predicted as the top-eight cutoff.
Unfortunately, they have been lumped with a horror run home, with games against North Queensland (7th), Melbourne (6th), Manly (1st) and the Warriors (8th).
The Panthers will have to do it with a host of front-line troops.
Isaac Joh (achilles), Peter Wallace (knee), Tyrone Peachey (pectoral), Elijah Taylor (knee), Brent Kite (pectoral) and Bryce Cartwright (ankle) are all out long term, and their injury list is enough to make usually unflappable coach Ivan Cleary laugh in disbelief.