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Dragons' NRL winning streak hits three

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/04/2017 Matt Encarnacion

St George-Illawarra have cemented their surprise packet status by rocketing to second on the NRL ladder with a 28-6 win over Wests Tigers.

Veteran Jason Nightingale scored a hat trick, while skipper Gareth Widdop played a hand in four of their five tries in the late Sunday fixture victory.

However the result may have come at a cost for the Dragons, with star fullback Josh Dugan suffering a hamstring injury midway through the second half.

The victory lifts the Dragons alongside Sydney Roosters and North Queensland on three wins behind unbeaten competition leaders Melbourne.

Round one apart, not since midway through coach Paul McGregor's second season in charge in 2015 have the Red V sat inside the top two.

The win continues a remarkable early-campaign turnaround. A year ago at the same stage, they were in the process of scoreless back-to-back losses.

For the Tigers, their fourth straight defeat is yet another reminder of the tough rebuild awaiting the imminent arrival of a new head coach.

Former Warriors and Penrith mentor Ivan Cleary is tipped to get the nod as sacked Jason Taylor's successor on a three-and-a-half year deal this week.

In front of 13,172 at ANZ Stadium, the Tigers enjoyed a 54-18 advantage in plays inside the opposition 20-metre zone but had little to show for it.

Instead it was the Dragons - the league's first team past the 100-point mark this season - who showed off their continued improvement with the ball.

But McGregor credited their defence for the win.

"Out goal-line 'D' was special today. We had 70 play-the-balls - or close enough to it - inside out 20, eight of the first 10 sets as well," he said.

"When you're under fatigue, to only allow yourself seven errors for the game, it's outstanding. Shows their commitment to each other and certainly their fitness."

Nightingale crossed in the seventh, 12th and 32nd minutes, each try involving the scheming hands of five-eighth Widdop.

The Dragons' attacking intent was best summed up by Widdop's third-tackle kick for the second of the New Zealand international's second four-pointer.

The No.6 then produced a sublime three-man cutout pass for the hat trick.

The Tigers, still coached by caretaker Andrew Webster, showed plenty of ticker to reduce the deficit with a Kevin Naiqama try in the 49th-minute.

But any thoughts of a comeback were put to bed when Widdop put another one on a platter, this time via his boot, for centre Tim Lafai to score 10 minutes later.

Nene Macdonald sealed the win with a 70th-minute try in his 50th match, while Leeson Ah Mau celebrated his 100th game for the club with a penalty goal.

Webster bemoaned the Tigers' inability to execute in good field position.

"We had plenty of opportunities on their line. We either didn't execute or got disheartened by what we were doing," he said.

"We've got to execute better but ... we've got to get on with the next job and that's to defend."

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