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NRL Match Preview

PREVIEW | New Zealand Warriors vs St. George Illawarra Dragons

Premiership leaders St. George Illawarra Dragons travel for a top of the table encounter against the second place Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Friday night.

TEAM FORM GUIDE

New Zealand Warriors

The New Zealand side after five rounds being undefeated was met with a Broncos outfit determined to pick up a must needed win. The Brisbane team were able to strangle the red-hot Warriors with early pressure and penalty conversions coming out victorious 27-18.

St George-Illawarra Dragons

St. George Illawarra continued their perfect run of the season punishing the Sharks with four penalty goals within the first half. The Sharks riddled with injuries to their key forwards were run over in the next half with four converted tries winning 40-20

SQUAD NEWS

New Zealand Warriors

Simon Mannering returns to the starting side for Leivaha Pulu who has a foot injury. Solomone Kata has been picked to play despite the club announcing he has an ankle injury. Bunty Afoa shifts to start at prop for Sam Lisone who retreats to the interchange, in addition, Albert Vete joins the bench.

St George-Illawarra Dragons

The Dragons are unchanged after claiming their sixth win of the season.

PREVIEW

These two teams have jumped out of the gates from the start of the season, both the Dragons and Warriors have surprised a lot by the quality of rugby league and the big improvements from previous years. The key match-up of this clash will rely heavily on the inform halfbacks Shaun Johnson and Ben Hunt.

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Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson has returned to his top-flight form from years gone by with the addition of a steadying five-eighth in Blake Green to the club. After being sidelined for the majority of 2017 the Kiwi superstar has helped lead his side to five wins in the opening six rounds of the competition, with 4 try assists and averaging over 70 run metres per game the half has split sides apart playing his natural game once again. The test for Johnson leading into this fixture is sticking to the Warriors simple style of play and not to over complicate all while showing in the full 80 minutes that he’s prepared to take the line on with speed and kick the Dragons backs into positional confusion.

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There are many reasons why the high-flying Dragons are yet to lose this season, mainly because of the recruitment of a genuine halfback in Ben Hunt. Alongside Gareth Widdop the key element that their side desperately needed that Hunt possesses is his kicking game, with over 290 metres averaging in pin-point kicks while assisting in 7 tries and linebreaks showing why the side is going so well in 2018. The challenge that lies ahead for Hunt against the Warriors and his opposing halfback Johnson will be providing his outside men with opportunities to come alive in the match while not being bogged down defending if the Dragons forwards are unable to contain their oppositions big men.

Prediction: Dragons by 8

KEY STAT

The Dragons have won 21 of 25 matches ever played against Warriors. St. George five-eighth Gareth Widdop will play his 100th game for the club on Friday

SQUADS

Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), 2 David Fusit’a, 3 Peta Hiku, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Blake Green, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Bunty Afoa, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Agnatius Paasi, 11 Simon Mannering, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Adam Blair Interchange: 14 Jazz Tevaga, 15 Sam Lisone, 16 Albert Vete, 17 Anthony Gelling

Dragons: 1 Matthew Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop (c), 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack De Belin Interchange: 14 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Hame Sele

THE IMPORTANT DETAILS

Date: Friday 20th April
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
Kick-off: 6 pm

WHO WILL WIN?

Who will win between Warriors and Dragons?

NRL MATCH REPORT | Brisbane Broncos 27 New Zealand Warriors 18

NRL MATCH REPORT | St. George Illawarra Dragons 40 – Cronulla Sharks 20

Queensland correspondent for NothingButLeague since 2017

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