After impressing in their opening round win over the Wests Tigers, the St George Illawarra Dragons travel across the ditch to Eden Park in Auckland to face the New Zealand Warriors who are coming off a 36-16 loss at the hands of the Parramatta Eels.
Unfortunately their record against the Dragons is woeful, having tasted success just 4 times in 20 overall clashes, and in games played in New Zealand, the Dragons have taken the points in six of the nine clashes, and have not lost there since 2007.
The Warriors were right in the match at half-time last week, trailing just 14-12 before falling away, conceding 22 second-half points. The Dragons were quite the opposite last week, trailing 18-6 after 20 minutes at ANZ Stadium before clicking into gear and blowing the Tigers off the park. They will be full of confidence after running in 7 tries and should start the match as favourites.
The Warriors have drafted in veteran Jerome Ropati who is solid in defence, but will have his hands full against the Dragons backline, led by Gareth Widdop. Ropati’s combination with the at-times inconsistent Manu Vatuvei will play a big part. The Dragons have had to make a couple of changes of their own with Sam Williams the new half back, replacing Michael Witt who is out for a couple of weeks with a dislocated shoulder. Bronson Harrison comes into the 17 to replace Jack De Belin who suffered a leg cork last week.
On paper, the Warriors have one of the best sides in the NRL, making last weeks’ performance a real eye opener and expect them to fire up in front of their home fans. The Dragons let in a couple of soft tries last week, but their attack was scintillating and if they avoid another slow start they could make it a long day for the Warriors.
There won’t be much in this one, but the Dragons were very good last week, and they enjoy a good record in New Zealand. The Warriors are traditionally a momentum team in that they can play unbelievable football, but for short periods and struggle to play for the full 80 minutes. The Dragons look a more balanced side and enjoy a great record in New Zealand so expect them to win, but not by much.