The Dragons and the Warriors are set to face off on Sunday afternoon after interesting starts to the 2017 NRL season. The Warriors will be travelling to UOW Jubilee Oval in an attempt to claim their second win of the season, and will be looking towards climbing closer to the top eight.

Last Time Out 

It was a classic local derby for the Dragons on Sunday afternoon of Round 3 when they took the field at Southern Cross Group Stadium to face off against defending Premiers, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. For this derby in particular, all form is thrown out the window, and the Dragons had a huge start following their loss to the Parramatta Eels the weekend before. Gareth Widdop opened up the scoring with a penalty goal in the eighteenth minute, and shortly after it was Euan Aitken who crossed the chalk for their first four pointer of the evening. During the match it was evident the Dragons were desperate for redemption after their loss to the Eels; their overall game statistics had improved significantly, in particular their completion rate. While it was a solid win over the Sharks, it wasn’t overly convincing, and there is still plenty of room for improvement for the Dragons’ squad before they take on the Warriors.

The Warriors are coming off their second loss for the season, when they were defeated 24-12 by the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in New Zealand. The Warriors were off to a good start, with Bodene Thompson going over for the first try of the night. At roughly the half hour mark was when they seemingly began to slow down as a unit, with the Bulldogs scoring twice before half time at the hands of Moses Mbye and Brett Morris. It took a while either team to warm up during the second half, and once again the Warriors kicked things off with star halfback converting his own try in the sixty-first minute. From there it took a mere four minutes for the Bulldogs to bounce back and run away with the win. Fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is expected to return to the side, and Kieran Foran has been named as twenty-first man, how much difference this will make is yet to be seen.

Key Battle 

The key battle for the match between the Dragons and the Warriors lies in the back line with the match up of fullbacks Josh Dugan and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Both players have the capabilities to carry the team, with assistance from the remaining members of the spine. Despite drama around last week’s concussion incident, Josh Dugan had a great game last weekend and will be looking to replicate. Tuivasa-Sheck is returning to number one for the Warriors after sitting out last week, and will be seizing the opportunity to gain a second win for the New Zealand Warriors so far this season.

Both teams will be looking to maintain high completion rates and minimise conceded penalties (more so Warriors than the Dragons, given last weekend’s penalty counts). The Warriors will need build a lot of pressure against the Dragons, which will inevitably improve their attacking game. Meanwhile the Dragons need to look at ball control and reducing errors, considering the amount made last week against the Sharks.

Prediction

Without a doubt the game will be close in a variety of areas, given the strengths and weaknesses of both teams that have made their way into their games in the opening three rounds of the season. The Warriors will be desperate for their second win of the season and will come out blazing. I don’t rule New Zealand out completely, and given the up and down form of both teams so far this season it could very easily go either way, however the Dragons’ defence and overall cohesiveness has improved incredibly which could cause trouble for the visitors. Dragons by 4+

Squads

St George Illawarra Dragons v Warriors at UOW Jubilee Oval, 6.30pm (AEDT) Sunday

Dragons: 1 Josh Dugan 2 Nene Macdonald 3 Euan Aitken 4 Tim Lafai 5 Jason Nightingale 6 Gareth Widdop (c) 7 Josh McCrone 8 Russell Packer 9 Cameron McInnes 10 Paul Vaughan 11 Tyson Frizell 12 Joel Thompson 13 Jack de Belin 14 Tariq Sims 15 Leeson Ah Mau 16 Jacob Host 17 Kurt Mann 18 Jai Field 19 Taane Milne 20 Luciano Leilua 21 Hame Sele

Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2 Tuimoala Lolohea, 3 David Fusitu’a, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Mafoa’aeata Hingano, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Albert Vete, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Jacob Lillyman, 11 Bodene Thompson, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Simon Mannering. Interchange: 14 Erin Clark, 15 Charlie Gubb, 16 Sam Lisone, 17 Bunty Afoa, 18 James Gavet, 20 Ligi Sao, 21 Blake Ayshford, 22 Kieran Foran