Dragons' Blues hopefuls star in thumping win over Melbourne

St George Illawarra's State of Origin stocks soared to their highest of the season as a host of Blues-in-waiting starred in the NRL pacesetters' thumping of premiers Melbourne at Jubilee Oval.

Paul McGregor's men vaulted clear of the Warriors as outright competition leaders after the 34-14 win – and NSW coach Brad Fittler might have pencilled in a number of Red V stars for the Origin opener on Sunday's evidence.

Making a statement: Euan Aitken scores for the Dragons.

Euan Aitken enhanced his claims with a try-scoring double and Cameron McInnes won a personal battle with Queensland captain Cameron Smith, who played wounded for much of the match.

The Dragons only scored four tries to three but rode Gareth Widdop's faultless boot with four conversions and a further five penalty goals to confirm their premiership favouritism on the cusp of the Origin period.

Paul McGregor is likely to face a player drain not seen before in the Dragons' history. Jack de Belin and Tariq Sims turned  in bruising back-row displays again after their Anzac Day feats against the Roosters, Tyson Frizell is a certainty for NSW selection, and Ben Hunt will be included in Queensland's squad after his bright start to life as a Dragon.

Melbourne flyer Josh Addo-Carr scored all bar two of Melbourne's points with a scintillating hat-trick, but the match swung on St George Illawarra's sizzling second-half display.

The Dragons held an eight-point buffer at the break after an error-strewn first half, but McInnes seized control of the contest when he took advantage of a bizarre injury to Smith to dart over from dummy-half.

Smith hunched over in agony after Jeremy Latimore appeared to catch the Australian skipper in his groin region when rising from a tackle – and McInnes sensed his opportunity with no marker as the Dragons never looked back.

Aitken scored the first and last of St George Illawarra's four tries opposing Papua New Guinean Justin Olam, who was on his NRL debut in place of injured NSW hopeful Curtis Scott.

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