By Tony Webeck (NRL.com)
The Dragons' first finals appearance in four years is under threat by two teams battling to avoid the wooden spoon according to back-rower Tyson Frizell.
St George Illawarra's shock 28-26 loss to the Titans on Sunday on the Gold Coast keeps them just two points clear of Manly Warringah in eighth position on the Telstra Premiership ladder but with a 61-point better points differential than the Sea Eagles.
The Dragons round out the regular season when they play the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium on Saturday evening while Manly's Round 26 assignment is against the Sharks at Remondis Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The likelihood is that even if the Dragons were to lose to the Tigers they will still qualify for the finals but given Wests put 50 points on the Warriors on Sunday, that's not a scenario Frizell wants to entertain.
"It is definitely [hard not to think about the finals] and that's something that we've spoken about," Frizell told NRL.com.
"We can't really worry about finals footy at the moment. The Titans and the Tigers are pretty similar kinds of teams and if we toss up a performance like that, we're just going to get our backsides kicked and you don't want that leading into a finals series.
"We're going to have a good look at ourselves when we go back to training on Tuesday and fix up our performance because that just wasn't good enough.
"Semi-final footy is coming up but we can't be worrying about that. We've got another game to come and anything can happen."
Despite the disappointment of letting an eight-point lead slip against the Titans and only just sneaking past the Panthers the week prior, Frizell still believes the Dragons have the style of game to excel in finals football.
The Dragons' completion rate of 76 per cent prior to taking on the Titans was one of the best in the competition and they climbed to the top of the table mid-year on the back of a defensive resolve that for a time was unmatched.
In their past eight games – which includes their 36-0 shut-out against the Warriors – the Dragons have conceded on average more than 21 points per game and got away from what took them to eight wins from nine games earlier in the season.
"In those kinds of situations [such as against the Titans] you try not to panic and I think that's what we did. We went away from our structures and tried to play kind of individually and not as a team," Frizell conceded.
"That's something that we spoke about after the game and that's just not what we're about. We know we're not that kind of team and the past two weeks we have kind of gone away from the things we were doing well.
"We know we're the kind of team where we stay in front. We get off to a good start and we're happy to lead by two points and stay at that the whole game. We don't need to be scoring points or throwing trick plays, we're happy to get in front and grind out teams.
"That was the kind of footy that got us those seven or eight wins in a row during the middle of the season and if we get back to that simple style of footy, tough, gritty footy then we'll go a long way the next few weeks."