Zac Lomax has added further to his Origin case with another strong performance in the Dragons’ stunning 30-12 boilover win over the Warriors in Wollongong.

Playing in the centres, Lomax scored one of the tries of the year, leaping high above Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to claim a kick, while also landing a two point field goal and creating two line breaks.

What Michael Maguire will have noticed, however, was the unflashy grunt work. Lomax took a legion of hard carries and totally shut down Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in defence, forcing the Warriors to focus on the other side of the field.

The defence across the board was exceptional. Kyle Flanagan, in particular, pulled off several miraculous tackles as the Dragons showed all of the grit that we have come to expect from a Shane Flanagan side.

It was assisted by a Warriors side that, again, struggled to convert territorial dominance into points. On top of that, they also lacked their usual defensive discipline, regularly allowing yardage penalties that lifted St George Illawarra out of pressure situations.

This was a statement win for Flanagan senior, a proof of concept in what he is trying to do. For counterpart Andrew Webster, this will be the most concerning sign yet for a team that has won, but not always impressed in 2024. Tonight, they did neither.

Lomax has to be in Origin contention

Zac Lomax is a living example at the moment of how quickly the rugby league world can change.

Before the season, he was all but hung out to try by Flanagan, exiled to a wing and very much on the outer.

Now, he has confirmed that he is leaving for Parramatta – a win for all parties, you have to think – and in the best form that he has ever shown in the NRL.

The logic behind shifting him to the wing is obvious, and while Lomax played in the centre tonight, all of the same traits were there.

For all that coaches like to say they’ve simplified a player’s game, that is certainly true in this case.

He’s been stripped back to a big body, a strong carry, a target for kicks and a willing worker. While Lomax has the miracle pass and the flicked offload in his locker, we’re rarely seeing them.

The irony is that, while he has publicly rejected any move to the wing permanently, it looks likely to launch his career to new heights.

There’s no way that Michael Maguire is not watching these performances and wondering if they mightn’t be replicated in the Origin era.

The phrase ‘made for Origin’ is so overused as to be almost completely meaningless, and Lomax would have been the opposite of it. Too flashy, not consistent, all show and no grunt.

Now, he’s the opposite. Brian To’o has one wing, but the other is wide open. Don’t be surprised to see Lomax on it.

The Dragons have changed

The first ten minutes looked dire for the Dragons.

They completed at 100%, but did absolutely nothing with the football, gradually losing metres on every set.

The average set distances were ten metres apart, which gradually moved the Wahs closer to the Dragons line, which, in turn, meant that any mistake would result in a break.

Jaydn Su’A gave away a penalty to gift field position and within a minute, Johnson was able to walk over under so little pressure that almost everyone watching thought there must’ve been an obstruction. There wasn’t.

It took 20 minutes for the Dragons to cross halfway, but their excellent goalline defence kept them from falling further behind.

The Warriors had been near-perfect, and while their ability to make metres up the middle never went away, they couldn’t maintain discipline around the ruck and were penalised four times around the 40m mark on exit sets.

All three of the Dragons’ first half tries were directly from avoidable penalties that were compounded by set restarts. Even the most conservative of attacking units will start to post points under those circumstances.

Crucially for Flanagan, they put themselves in a position to win, and for their opponents to make mistakes.

St George Illawarra did the same against Manly, who were undone by constant errors rather than penalties, though the net result is the same.

For a crucial point in the first half in the win over the Sea Eagles, they withstood huge pressure before cashing in late. That has now happened twice, and simply didn’t under previous iterations of the Dragons.

It has to be said that it was contributed to by the Warriors.

Their attack has been well underpowered this season: it was ropey against the Sharks and they lost, bad against the Raiders and they got away with it, not brilliant against Manly and they drew and now another defeat.

The ability to get into position is basically unmatched, but the execution is miles off. It’s very one-sided, favouring the right to the left, and a little too predictable.





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