The St. George Illawarra Dragons gave outgoing coach Paul McGregor a fitting farewell against the Parramatta Eels with a brave 14-12 win.
McGregor was shown the door earlier this week, although he still had a year to complete his contract, but took the reins on the eels for the last time.
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It seemed to inspire the team to an exciting win at Bankwest Stadium with incredible post-game scenes as the players ran to embrace and share the moment with the beaming McGregor.
While it was somewhat to be expected that Parramatta would do short work 20 minutes before the Dragons ended, the Dragons took a penalty goal after a high tackle to bring it down to 12 in a “hot” match, according to League commentators.
A wet game made it difficult to handle, but the Dragons were on and ending a streak of three losses to send McGregor out as the winner.
The last 20 minutes have been controversial and fascinating. One attempt was not allowed for either side.
The first was the Kaide Ellis of the Dragons. Ben Hunt kicked the ball into the Eels’ Reed Mahoney, with the ball ricocheting for the attacking Ellis.
But on the replay it was taken by the striker when Parramatta’s junior Paulo touched the ball when Ellis made the slightest wobble.
In the Fox League Michael Ennis said: “You can’t take that away from the great man, you can’t do it to him.”
On Channel 9, Phil Gould aimed again at the bunker for a reason to decline an attempt.
“You’re making it too complicated,” said Gould. You’re looking too much. You are not running the game with a magnifying glass.
“I have to get too old. It’s an attempt in every era, every decade. In any time! They are looking for a one percent chance to override things that they really do.
“It’s like they’re trying to find something that neither of us can see. Don’t start me I am going for a walk.”
But Mahoney was sidelined and the Dragons took the lead 14-12.
Mahoney almost became a hero at the other end of the field after being the only onside player for a kick by Blake Ferguson in which the Eels dummy plunged full-length and landed the ball right on the dead ball line.
While the eels were beaten up for their performance and Channel 9’s Brad Fittler said the eels didn’t throw much at the dragons with their “nonexistent” halves, most of the praise went to the dragon for sending their trainer out as the winner would have .
A strangely jubilant McGregor even smiled as he stood in front of the media. When asked how he felt, he said, “You are good now.”
“You were a little unsettled yesterday morning and today,” he said. “But when I got into the game, I just wanted to enjoy it with the players.
“It was a nice way to end my career at the club. The players are pretty emotional there. There has been a lot of talk that they didn’t play for me but were too far from the truth and they showed that tonight.
“We had a little presentation there and Cam (McInnes) showed me his sweater, which is probably one of the best gifts I have ever received from someone I admire, how he plays the game and runs the club . ”
When asked if there were tears, McGregor said there had been “too many in the last 48 hours”.
But social media got excited for McGregor as social media went insane for the departing coach.