Craig Cauchi previews this exciting Sunday afternoon clash between the St George Illawarra Dragons and Canterbury Bulldogs at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
St George Illawarra Dragons
After the starting the season with two losses, the Dragons have returned to the winners circle with back-to-back one point victories. Their performances are building but have yet to truly put it together for a full 80 minutes, which is something they certainly need to build on heading into the middle part of the season.
The Bulldogs were amongst the worst performing teams at the start of the year with back-to-back big losses. This led to Dean Pay bringing in fresh new faces and they immediately made an impact with a much needed win over the Tigers. They backed it up with a spirited performance against the ladder leading Melbourne Storm but just fell short. This Bulldogs side is definitely on the improve.
St George Illawarra Dragons
After the game against Newcastle, Korbin Sims confirmed-via social media- that he had broken his arm after his first hit up and that he will be unavailable for a few weeks. Luciano Leilua returns to the starting 17 and will come off the bench. In better news, Tyson Frizell’s return from the bench was successful and will return, this week, to his starting second row position with Jacob Host being relegated to the bench.
St George Illawarra Dragons: 1. Matt Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes (c) 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13 Blake Lawrie INTERCHANGE: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Zac Lomax 16. Jacob Host 17. Luciano Leilua RESERVES: 18. Mitchell Allgood 19. Jai Field 20. Josh Kerr 21. Jonus Pearson
Dylan Napa has succumbed to his syndesmosis injury and will be out for some time. His spot in the team has been taken by Ofahiki Ogden with the empty spot on the bench going to former Tiger Sauaso Sue. Other than that the Bulldogs will continue with their new look side that has put in two solid performances.
Canterbury Bulldogs: 1. Nick Meaney 2. Jayden Okunbor 3. Kerrod Holland 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Jack Cogger 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Ofahiki Ogden 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 13. Rhyse Martin INTERCHANGE: 14. Michael Lichaa 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Adam Elliot 17. Chris Smith RESERVES: 19. Danny Fualalo 20. Marcelo Montoya 21. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 22. Fa’amanu Brown
HEAD TO HEAD
These sides met twice in 2018 with both sides taking the victory in their away encounters. The Dragons got away with a close 18-16 match early on in the season but the Bulldogs came out big winners by 38-0. It was an impressive performance from the young Bulldogs side with winger Reimis Smith bagging a hattrick of tries. The match came during the Dragons end of season fade but they’ll certainly still be smarting from putting in a dismal performance at the same stadium they will run out to on Sunday afternoon. The Bulldogs, who have always been able to split the Dragons up the middle in previous encounters will be looking for more of the same.
This will be the third game for young halves Lachlan Lewis and Jack Cogger and once again it will come down to how they run their side around on Sunday. They’ll be buoyed by their last two performances and will look to take advantage of a Dragons side that are yet to quite hit their stride. The other interesting area that the Bulldogs will look to get over their opponents is the effort from their outside backs. Both wingers and outside backs from the Dragons have been helpful in not only the yardage game but getting across the line.
Defence will be a big emphasis for the Dragons this week, in particular their right edge defence. If they turn up with the same trust and commitment that they did against the Broncos it will make life difficult for the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were great in exposing the weaknesses in the Melbourne Storm’s right side defence. This week they’ll certainly be paying close attention to how the Knights found space on the Dragons right edge through the work of Kayln Ponga.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: 14th Sunday
Venue: Nestrata Jubilee Stadium
Referee: Ashley Klein, Gerrard Sutton
WHO WILL WIN?
The Bulldogs have been impressive. They have shown composure, class, and now they’ll need to show consistency. The tough part about is backing up and dealing with expectation. As seen with the first two games their is a large gap between their worst and best effort. This will be the first day game for a Dragon’s side that has been slowly building their game play. They won’t want to put in another disappointing effort in front of their home fans. Dragons by 14.