Dragons show NRL spine without Widdop

Ben Hunt scored two tries and had a hand in five more in the Dragons' 40-4 thumping of the Bulldogs.
Ben Hunt scored two tries and had a hand in five more in the Dragons' 40-4 thumping of the Bulldogs.

It was only a few weeks ago that everyone was on their back about their spine.

But St George Illawarra are seemingly walking tall now after surging back into the top eight with a resounding 40-4 thumping of Canterbury on Sunday.

Since losing Gareth Widdop for most of the season, the Dragons have reeled off three straight wins to surge back into the top eight.

And while a clutch Corey Norman proved the hero over the past fortnight, halves partner Ben Hunt had his turn in the spotlight against the Bulldogs.

Hunt scored two tries and played a hand in five others in what coach Paul McGregor described as his best game of the season so far.

"Benny's a person that's really enjoying his footy right now," McGregor said.

"When someone with that talent enjoys their footy, they're exciting to watch. He was that today, he wanted to be around the ball.

"And defensively he wanted to get off his line and bang. Look, he's had a good game. He's had a couple of good games this year, but that was his best."

Norman's arrival over the summer had created a playmaking conundrum for McGregor, who shifted Widdop to fullback prior to his injury.

However the silver lining to his absence appears to have allowed Norman and Hunt the time and space to find their combination over the past three weeks.

McGregor admitted the spine talk was a big issue over the opening rounds, but was firm in his belief that their chemistry was building weeks ago.

"(Gareth's injury has) taken away from any talk around it, because everyone had an opinion about it," McGregor said.

"But certainly the way they played today, it looks like they're forming a nice combination, if that's what you mean.

"And that's important going forward because we won't have Gaz for another 20 weeks."

Australian Associated Press