The finals race heats up on Friday night with the Dragons desperately needing to turn things around with a victory, whereas the Bulldogs will be looking to further cement their top 8 position and re-ignite their top 4 ambitions with a comfortable win.

LAST TIME OUT

The Bulldogs were completely blown off the park 36 – 0 against the reigning premiers last Thursday night, falling behind early and never really looking in contention to trouble the Cowboys. The Bulldogs lacked creativity in attack which has raised speculation during the week that Mbye and Reynolds lack the spark to allow the Bulldogs to mount a serious challenge to the NRL title in 2016.

The Dragons took on a Tigers side that had endured a week of turmoil following the dropping of Robbie Farah to reserve grade. The Dragons started well against Wests but were eventually overrun by the faster and more explosive Tigers outfit and fell 25 – 12. Another brave effort aside the Dragons still lacked the ability to put enough points on the board to compete at the level required in the NRL.

KEY BATTLE

The Bulldogs halves pairing will be looking to make a statement on Friday night following a disappointing performance last week on the big stage against the Cowboys. Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds started 2016 in career best form but their performances over the last few months have cooled somewhat. Des Hasler will be keen for his number 6 and 7 to rediscover their former sooner rather than later with the finals approaching fast and the match-up against the Dragons is a great opportunity to re-ignite the spark.

The Dragons will need to shut down the dynamic due on Friday night in order to restrict the Bulldogs scoring opportunities. If Reynolds and Mbye get the ball with time to run expect the Dogs to rediscover their attacking form from earlier in the year. If the Dragons do manage to smother their opportunities there may yet be hope for the Red V in this one.

PREDICTION

Games between these two sides have been fairly one-sided of late with 5 of the last 6 matches decided by 13 points or more. Despite their struggle in Townsville last Thursday night the Bulldogs have a massive edge when looking at this year’s attacking statistics having scored almost 170 points more than the Dragons in 2016. The Bulldogs also have the 4th best defensive record in the NRL in 2016 which should see them have a sizeable advantage come Friday night.

The Dragons will look to turn this one into a dour battle, so expect plenty of niggle as they attempt to frustrate the Bulldogs and put them off their game. No matter which way you look at it through the Bulldogs should have the edge, and the desire to turn last week’s form around as soon as possible and should manage to take the points against the Dragons on Friday night football.

Bulldogs to win against a brave Dragons outfit by 8 points in a rugged edition of Friday night football.

SQUADS

Canterbury Bulldogs v St George Illawarra Dragons, ANZ Stadium, 7.50pm (AEST) Friday

Bulldogs: 1 William Hopoate 2 Brett Morris 3 Josh Morris 4 Curtis Rona 5 Sam Perrett 6 Josh Reynolds 7 Moses Mbye 8 Aiden Tolman 9 Michael Lichaa 10 James Graham 11 Joshua Jackson 12 Greg Eastwood 13 David Klemmer. Interchange: 14 Sam Kasiano 15 Danny Fualalo 16 Tim Browne 17 Raymond Faitala 19 Lloyd Perrett 21 Tyrone Phillips.

Dragons: 1 Adam Quinlan 2 Kurt Mann 3 Euan Aitken 4 Taane Milne 5 Jason Nightingale 6 Gareth Widdop 7 Benji Marshall 8 Russell Packer 9 Mitch Rein 10 Michael Cooper 11 Tyson Frizell 12 Joel Thompson 13 Jack De Belin. Interchange: 14 Tariq Sims 15 Will Matthews 16 Jacob Host 17 Jacob Marketo 19 Tyrone McCarthy