St. George-Illawarra host Manly at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium in the early Saturday night (5:30pm) game.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
St. George-Illawarra returned to the top of the table after beating Canterbury 18-16 on the Queen’s Birthday Monday at Homebush. Euan Aitken, Tariq Sims, Nene Macdonald scored tries, while Gareth Widdop kicked three goals.’The Dragons and Penrith both have 10-3 records, with the Dragons ahead on points differential, so keeping their winning form will be vital.
By contrast, Manly are stuck in 13th with a 4-10 record. They’ve lost their last three games: against Canberra (21-20), North Queensland (26-12) and NZ Warriors (34-14). Taking the Warriors home game to Christchurch didn’t pay off football-wise; they led 8-0 after 21 minutes (Apisai Koroisau try, Trent Hodkinson two goals), before the Warriors scored 34 unanswered points. Brian Kelly scored a consolation try.
St. George-Illawarra name an unchanged team from last Monday’s win. Kurt Mann plays on the left wing, ahead of Jason Nightingale (on the bench).
Manase Fainu makes his debut, replacing Koroisau (out for eight to ten weeks with a broken foot). Moses Suli return to the centres, with Brad Parker on the bench. Frank Winterstein is in the second row and Shaun Lane is on the bench.
St. George-Illawarra and Manly met twice in 2017, with the Dragons winning both games easily. The first clash was round six at Brookvale Oval, St. George-Illawarra winning 35-10. Aitken and Widdop scored doubles, with one each to Jack De Belin and Kurt Mann; Widdop kicked five goals and a field goal. The Dragons won 52-22 in round 20 at WIN Stadium, leading 30-0 at halftime. The Dragons scored nine tries, with doubles to Aitken and Jason Nightingale.
It’s a big battle between halfbacks – and current and past Maroons – Ben Hunt (St. George-Illawarra) v Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly-Warringah).
Once mocked for that grand final drop in 2015, Hunt has blossomed at the Dragons. He’s played all 13 games this season, with three tries and nine try assists. His combination with Gareth Widdop is a big part of the Dragons’ ascendancy.
By contrast, Daly Cherry-Evans is seemingly out of favour at the Maroons as Manly are stuck in the bottom four. If Manly are to upset the Dragons, Cherry-Evans (with 14 games, four tries and six try assists so far) needs to lift.
St. George-Illawarra lead the head-to-head against Manly 17-9 since 1998.
St. George-Illawarra: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Kurt Mann, 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 Jason Nightingale, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Jacob Host
Reserves: 18 Blake Lawrie, 19 Patrick Herbert, 20 Reece Robson, 21 Hame Sele
Manly-Warringah: 1 Tom Trbojevic, 2 Jorge Taufua, 3 Moses Suli, 4 Brian Kelly, 5 Akuila Uate, 6 Trent Hodkinson, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Manase Fainu, 10 Martin Taupau, 11 Joel Thompson, 12 Frank Winterstein, 13 Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: 14 Matthew Wright, 15 Brad Parker, 16 Shaun Lane, 17 Taniela Paseka
Reserves: 18 Thomas Wright, 19 Lewis Brown, 20 Toafofoa Sipley, 21 Lloyd Perrett
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday July 16th.
Venue:WIN Stadium, Wollongong.
WHO WILL WIN?
St. George-Illawarra should win this comfortably. The Dragons will want to keep ahead of Penrith, while Manly’s season is just about over, and having to return to Sydney from Christchurch won’t help. Expect a happy night in Wollongong for Dragons fans, with plenty of tries.
St. George-Illawarra by 20.
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