Both the Dragons and Eels will be looking to build upon their first round victories when they clash at WIN Stadium on Sunday evening.
LAST TIME OUT
The Red V surprised everyone including myself when they blew premiership favourites Penrith off the park last Saturday, winning 42 points to 10 at Kogarah. New signings Paul Vaughan and Cameron McInnes were clinical as the Dragons’ forwards rolled over the hapless Panthers, while captain Gareth Widdop silenced critics by scoring two tries and equaling the club record for most points scored in a game (22) and backrower Joel Thompson scoring a hat trick.
Parramatta were not quite as convincing but showed plenty of promise downing an ill-disciplined Manly at Lottoland. The Eels showed a lot of mettle, particularly up front, and while halves Clint Gutherson and Corey Norman looked good, they failed to capitalise and a lot of opportunities despite the glut of possession they had, so they’ll be wanting to rectify that if they are to compete.
The battle between under pressure halves Corey Norman and Gareth Widdop is paramount to the result of this clash. Both players possess class, as evidenced last weekend, but both are prone to inconsistency and have been heavily criticised.
One thing I have noticed is that while Norman thrives under responsibility, Widdop somewhat shirks under it, at least in an organising sense. I think the addition of Josh McCrone to the halves for the Dragons will allow the English international to play his natural running game, which was on show against the Panthers.
Alongside the young and inexperienced Clint Gutherson, Norman has the chance to blossom into a top-line number 7 by having more say in the Eels’ structures. He is also capable of producing something out of nothing, with his try and miraculous 40/20 against the Sea Eagles just some examples of his off-the-cuff ability.
Every game within the first five rounds of the NRL season is hard to predict, and this game is no different.
I still have questions over both teams as to whether they can continue the form they showed in the first 80 minutes of the season, but they definitely have the capacity to compete in this clash.
I feel like the Dragons have a better forward pack, but the Eels have more sting in the backs, which means it’ll be up to the halves to determine the outcome of this result.
Looking purely at last week’s results I think the big Red V will sneak home in this one.
Dragons by 8
Dragons: 1 Josh Dugan 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Josh McCrone 8. Russell Packer 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jack de Belin
Interchange 14. Tariq Sims 15. Leeson Ah Mau 16. Jacob Host 17. Jai Field
Reserves: 18. Kurt Mann 19. Taane Milne 20. Luciano Leilua 21. Hame Sele
Eels: 1 Bevan French 2. Semi Radradra 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Josh Hoffman 6. Clint Gutherson 7. Corey Norman 8. Suaia Matagi 9. Kaysa Pritchard 10. Tim Mannah 11. Manu Ma’u 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Beau Scott
Interchange: 14. Nathan Brown 15. Daniel Alvaro 16. Rory O’Brien 17. Frank Pritchard
Reserves: 18. David Gower 19. Cameron King 20. George Jennings 21. Marata Niukore