St George Illawarra feeling Origin pinch - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

St George Illawarra feeling Origin pinch

By Steve Jancetic and Joe Barton 31/05/2011 07:36:12 PM Comments (0)

Runaway ladder leaders St George Illawarra claim the representative season is taking a toll on their talent-laden squad.

However, this news should come as some consolation for a Parramatta side that hasn't scored against the premiers in almost three hours.

Four points clear and with just one loss approaching the halfway point of the season, the Dragons appear in cruise control as they bid to become the first back-to-back premiers since Brisbane in 1992-93.

But the red and white machine look to be paying the price for their success with eight players involved in last week's opening State of Origin, a factor winger Jason Nightingale admitted was starting to have an effect on the side.

"I don't think we've been as intense as we could have over the last few weeks, I think you can tell fatigue's getting to us a little bit," Nightingale said, pointing to Sunday's 24-18 win over Wests Tigers, the Dragons' ninth straight victory.

"I don't think the intensity's the same as it was but the effort's definitely there and we're still competing and that's something that's important.

"We haven't dropped off in effort towards our games.

"We've got a few more people in Origin I suppose and that's great for the boys and great for what they bring to the team after being in camp ... we were always affected by Origin but this year it's been pretty massive."

Through it all however the Dragons keep winning, with Wayne Bennett's side having lost just once in their last 17 games including the World Club Challenge triumph earlier this year.

Their only hiccup was in round two against a fired-up Cronulla, but Nightingale's frank admission might give some hope to Eels fans hoping their side can turn a poor season around at Parramatta Stadium on Friday night.

The Eels haven't scored for 177 minutes against the Dragons, their last points against the red and white wall being a converted Luke Burt try in the 63rd minute of last year's opening-round encounter.

But if there is one man who can unlock the Dragons defence it's Eels fullback Jarryd Hayne - who scored one of the more memorable tries of recent years when Parramatta humbled the joint-venture in the opening week of the 2009 finals.

Hayne wasn't there due to suspension the last time the two sides met in round eight, where the premiers ran out 30-0 winners, but even he appreciated the enormity of the task facing his side on Friday night.

"As a team we need to be mistake free, they are the best team in the competition," Hayne said.

"Just watching them play, if you give them anything, they're going to hurt you so if we want to compete and we want to be in the game, we know that we have to play an 80 minute game, mistake-free and try to put as much pressure on them as possible.

"We know it's going to be the hardest game and we need to come out there with a great attitude for 80 minutes."

Hayne's heroics from two years ago haven't been forgotten however, with Nightingale admitting no amount of preparation could safeguard against the Eels No.1, who will no doubt have a point to prove as he makes a final bid for NSW Origin selection.

"Jarryd's still got his own tendencies that he gets in every week, but that doesn't mean a gameplan can stop that sort of thing," Nightingale said.

"Ad lib play is hard to defend against."

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