By Dan Walsh (NRL.com)
Dragons coach Paul McGregor has lauded halfback Benji Marshall's new-found composure as the Dragons kept their season alive with a 34-6 drubbing of the Titans.
The Dragons now face a five-day turnaround for what will be another do-or-die showdown with Brisbane on Friday night, with anything but a win for the Red V north of the border spelling the end of their 2014 campaign.
Guiding them past the Titans and ensuring their for and against received a healthy boost was a resurgent Marshall, who turned in one of his best displays in the red and white since returning to the game after an ill-fated stint in rugby union.
While his performance did come against an admittedly feeble Titans defensive line, Marshall bagged the game's opening four-pointer and set up Gerard Beale's 54th-minute try to seal the result, despite being hobbled minutes earlier by an ankle complaint.
McGregor said afterwards Marshall would go for precautionary scans on Monday after being brought from the field around the hour mark, and was full of praise for the 29-year-old's ability to deliver the knock-out blow under adversity.
"The composure that Benji's starting to play with, he's just going to get better at it at and better at it," McGregor said.
"He's a leader, he's one of our most experienced players and he's not that bloke that he was 10 years ago. He's a different player.
"With his experience, when he first came through he was a brilliant player, still is, but he used to play off the cuff a touch.
"He used to get the ball in his hands and anything could happen.
"Now he's got players around him that can also score points. What we need from him is to get the ball in the right hands."
Marshall's performance came in stark contrast to the effort he turned in two weeks ago against the Panthers, when a number of times he was guilty of running sideways too often and forcing his hand.
McGregor declared that while he will never try to limit the freewheeling play that made the former Tiger the game's most exciting player, he added Marshall is now understanding better than ever when and how to inject himself into a game.
"I'm never going to challenge him to not run the ball because that's one of his biggest strengths," McGregor said.
"I always challenge him to run the ball, but we don't need to score off every play and that comes with composure and that's what he's bringing to the football team now.
"That's what you want leaders and experienced players to do.
"They need to show the way for the young people coming through and that's what we need to get this football team to do."
Marshall was joined on the sideline late in proceedings by fellow rep star Josh Dugan, who was felled by a similar ankle injury with the match winding down.
McGregor was optimistic about both key men being optimistic for the trip to Brisbane.
"We'll have to see how they come up," said McGregor.
"They both left the field, but Josh at the end was more precautionary. We have to have a good look at that.
"Benji limped around for a little while but he had to stay out there because at the time we weren't comfortable we had enough points to go away with the game.
"When we got enough points he came from the field. He was heavily in ice so we have to see how he goes."