Date: Sunday May 31 2015
Venue: Jubilee Oval
Kick-Off: 4pm (AEST)
Dragons: 1. Josh Dugan, 2. Eto Nabuli, 3. Euan Aitken, 4 Peter Mata’utia, 5. Jason Nightingale, 6. Gareth Widdop, 7. Benji Marshall, 8. Leeson Ah Mau, 9. Mitch Rein, 10. Mike Cooper, 11. Tyson Frizzell, 12, Joel Thompson, 13. Trent Merrin Interchange: Heath L’Estrange, Ben Creagh, Jack de Belin, Will Matthews, Jake Marketo
Sharks: 1. Ben Barba, 2. Valentine Holmes, 3. Gerard Beale, 4. Blake Ayshford, 5. Michael Gordon, 6. Jack Bird, 7. Jeff Robson, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Michael Ennis, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Jayson Bukuya, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Luke Lewis Interchange: Sami Sauiluma, Tinirau Arona, David Fifita, Sam Tagataese, Tim Robinson
Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin will back up from State of Origin duty as St George-Illawarra Dragons face Shire rivals Cronulla Sharks in the Monty Porter Cup this Sunday.
Dugan handled the pressure of Origin quite well as he set up Josh Morris for a sensational try twenty minutes into the game. This is testament to the resurrection of his career since joining the Red V almost two years to the day when he made his debut for the club. His form has driven the Dragons north on the competition ladder with seven wins from ten matches and with more than half-a-foot in the door of making a finals appearance in 2015.
Merrin has been given the green light to play after coming off the bench in New South Wales’ one point loss in Wednesday’s Origin at ANZ Stadium. Paul McGregor adding Jake Marketo as eighteenth man to an otherwise unchanged line-up who were impressive last time out in defeating inform Canberra at WIN Stadium.
Cronulla will ensure that the Dragons don’t have it all their way on Sunday. They showed plenty of guts in a come from behind win over the Gold Coast Titans two weeks back. Since that victory Michael Gordon’s time at the Sharks has been under a cloud with rumours that the former Panther walked out on the club because of a fallout with coach Shane Flanagan. Gordon has been named on the wing for the derby. Like McGregor, Flanagan has added Tinirau Arona to an extended bench.
The Sharks are still without Paul Gallen as he recovers from a hip problem. It appears he may not be too far away from a return with the Blues skipper back in full training. He will have potentially one more club hit out with the Sharks match Sunday week against the Roosters his last chance to prepare for Origin II in Melbourne.
These sides have met seven times at Kogarah since the merger in 1999 with the Dragons winning five. The Sharks last win coming in 2007 with a 20-16 victory.
With the white hot form of Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop steering the Dragons around the park it’s hard to see the Sharks winning this one. It will be interesting to see how Jack Bird will handle the assignment. There’s no question he can get physical in defence and stand his ground.
Dugan and Jason Nightingale are proven performers out wide and present the Dragons with their best chances to create something in attack. The Sharks aren’t lacking talent with Ben Barba and Valentine Holmes at their best can tear apart opposition teams. If the Sharks are to win this game both will need to have a big hand in victory.
Prediction Dragons to continue their dominance in 2015 and record a good derby win. Dragons by 12.