'Story of our season': Paul McGregor laments controversial late call that saw Cronulla down St George Illawarra 18-12

Picture: John Veage
Picture: John Veage

Paul McGregor was left to lament the controversial decision that officially ended St George Illawarra's season on Sunday in their tense 18-12 derby loss to Cronulla.

The Dragons had fought back to make it 12-all at PointsBet Stadium with four minutes to play when they allowed a high Shaun Johnson kick to bounce.

The ball hit Wade Graham on the upper arm and traveled forward before falling kindly for Bronson Xerri who raced through to score untouched.

But on-field head referee Adam Gee ruled a try, with senior review official Jared Maxwell in the video referee bunker upholding the decision to seal a gritty win for Cronulla.

Winners: Cronulla five-eighth Shaun Johnson celebrates a Sharks try. Picture: John Veage

Winners: Cronulla five-eighth Shaun Johnson celebrates a Sharks try. Picture: John Veage

Dragons coach McGregor pointed to a number of poor errors from his side that cost them the game but admitted he was also dumbfounded by the decision.

"Sort of the story of our season, isn't it," he said.

"If [the referee] goes no try to start with it wouldn't have been awarded but he didn't. Went upstairs, they didn't want to change it. It's one of the things this year that hasn't gone right.

"You could see the change of direction of the ball straight away. I think they did too on the field because they didn't move too far, having a chat about it. But that's sort of footy. As I said we haven't really had anything go for us too much this year but that's a bit out of our control. But there was a lot of other things in the game that we could have done better.

"I'm obviously frustrated about the result when we could have done a little bit more ourselves to get the win and not rely on a decision from a referee. That's what I'm disappointed [about]."

The Dragons were again brave in defeat. They lost Patrick Kaufusi, Ben Hunt and Tyson Frizell to head injury assessments with McGregor saying only Hunt and Frizell would likely be fit to play the Sydney Roosters at Kogarah on Saturday night.

The loss saw St George Illawarra remain in 14th place on the table on 16 points, six outside the top eight with three games to play.

McGregor was left deflated with the result, claiming it was another game that had got away following recent close defeats to Parramatta and South Sydney since the return of captain Gareth Widdop from his shoulder injury.

"We're a good footy team but I'm disappointed in some of the footy out there today," McGregor said.

"Our effort and commitment was certainly there but some of the fundamental errors, there's no excuse.

"Whether you're young or old you've just got to be better than that. We put ourselves under enormous pressure at different stages through our footy awareness. We forced an error then we turned the footy over straight away pretty well that set.

"Our tryline [defence] was very good I thought. They scored two tries off kicks, another one on tackle five. Their tryline [defence] was very good [as well]. But outside that and the commitment and the effort, pushed passes and dropped balls on play one and going down short sides off the scrum and running out. They're just not good enough.

"Even the last one it comes to a bounce of a ball, ok Wade touched it which is good, he's being honest about it but make the stop. So that's the most disappointing thing. We've got to improve that otherwise we won't improve.

"Again we had 45 per cent possession and that's a little bit back on us. Our finish to our sets weren't anywhere near where they need to be with the type of players we had on the field today. So that needs to improve as well. To be in the fight again until the last four minutes it's a credit to how hard they're doing things for one another but as I said there was a lot of other things in the game we have to get better.

"And I feel there's been times this year that I can't really manage who we have available but I think we've got enough available. We showed today in patches and over the last three or four weeks that we can beat anyone but we've just got to clean up a few things and quickly."