The Dragons on decline come up against a plucky Knights side that gives their all on Sunday afternoon down at WIN Jubilee.
LAST TIME OUT
The Dragons have trended very far down the past couple of weeks with an insipid display against Canterbury followed by a 24-10 loss to the Eels in which they never really seemed to be “in it”. While they did have their Origin players out – and came against a team unaffected – there’s been some worrying signs for the Dragons ever since a round of contract extensions went public – so hopefully it’s not a case of payday complacency.
The Knights are coming off a bye – but memories of Uategate will be on their minds after a controversial try to the Manly winger – which was the objectively wrong call – cost them a victory at Lottoland, leaving them on the wrong side of a scoreline 18-14. They took it to a Manly team who has seen off many comers at Lottoland and can give it to a Dragons side struggling for form.
The backupability of the Dragons origin stars could decide their fortune. Tyson Frizell is unlikely to play while their fullback Josh Dugan is always an injury risk backing up from a tough, gritty game. Euan Aitken is on the extended bench if anything were to happen to Dugan, and could also come in if Paul McGregor is of the opinion he can rest some players against the Knights – something he would do only at his own peril.
The forwards from Newcastle are young and chomping at the bit, with names such as Mitch Barnett doing quite a good job despite not being household names. The Dragons have struggled to win the forward battle of late and this is a prime opportunity for a young Knights outfit to put their mark on a rival who is vulnerable. Nathan Brown should look to strike up the middle and then spread it wide after gaining the field position – if he does it could be a long night in Illawarra.
The Dragons are on the down and without forward leader Tyson Frizell they’re in a spot of bother, and taking it to the underrated Knights forward pack could be difficult if they can’t get moving. The Knights are not in anyone’s finals calculations but that hasn’t stopped them from causing an upset here or there in the past, and now it’s prime time to slay Dragons. The Knights by two.
Dragons: 1. Josh Dugan 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Kurt Mann 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Josh McCrone 8. Russell Packer 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tariq Sims 12. Joel Thompson 14. Jacob Host 15. Leeson Ah Mau 16. Hame Sele 17. Taane Milne 18. Will Matthews 19. Tyson Frizell 20. Blake Lawrie 21. Euan Aitken
Knights: 1. Dane Gagai 2. Ken Sio 3. Brendan Elliott 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Nathan Ross 6. Brock Lamb 7. Jaelen Feeney 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Danny Levi 10. Josh Starling 11. Sione Mata’utia 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Luke Yates 15. Josh King 16. Tyler Randell 17. Jacob Saifiti 18. Sam Mataora 19. Jacob Gagan 20. Trent Hodkinson 21. Tom Hughes