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  • Feeding hungry Widdop crucial: Benji

    2018 - 07.03

    Statistics show that the Dragons at at their best when Gareth Widdop has possession of the ball. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHANRUGBY LEAGUE
    Nanjing Night Net

    Benji Marshall believes the Dragons are a more dangerous side when halves partner Gareth Widdop gets his hands on the ball, and the statistics reinforce his claims.

    Widdop received the ball significantly less than Marshall during the opening two rounds of the NRL season, when St George Illawarra severely struggled to score points.

    The Red V scored just two tries in their first two games as they crashed to a 0-2 start to the year.

    Those two tries came on Widdop’s side of the field as left-edge partners Eto Nabuli and Dane Nielsen chalked up a four-pointer each.

    In round one Widdop had 11 fewer touches than Marshall, and in round two the deficit increased to 13 touches.

    It wasn’t until the Dragons travelled to Canberra that the English international five-eighth started to get his fair share.

    Widdop and Marshall touched the ball 57 times each during last week’s win over the Raiders.

    In the first half, however, Marshall had 27 touches to Widdop’s 20 and the Dragons trailed 18-8 at the break.

    The latter had the majority of the ball in the second half as the Dragons staged a remarkable comeback to win 22-20.

    The statistics paint a picture Marshall already knew.

    “We need to get the ball in his [Widdop’s] hands as much as possible,” Marshall said this week.

    “Gareth’s such a competitor and just a bloke who demands to get the ball in his hands.

    “We’re having our own battles, we’re trying to get our combination going the way we want it. It’s been a slow start for all of us and we’re looking to turn that around.”

    The Dragons’ halves will go up against the game’s best young 6 and 7 pairing when the club hosts Manly at WIN Stadium on Saturday.

    Sea Eagles five-eighth Kieran Foran has been named to make an early return from a hamstring injury to line up alongside his No. 7, Daly Cherry-Evans.

    It means the collective experience of 55 international Test matches between the four playmakers alone.

    It’s shaping as a crucial game for both clubs and it’s only fitting the clash will be played in Wollongong as the Dragons celebrate their 100th first grade game at WIN Stadium.

    “I love playing here, it’s always good playing at home and especially when you’re playing a tough team like Manly,” Marshall said.

    “We need all the support we can get out here.”

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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