NRL match preview: St George Illawarra Dragons vs Melbourne Storm

Date:Monday, June 30, 2014
Venue:WIN Stadium, Wollongong

Dragons:1.Adam Quinlan 2.Charly Runciman 3.Josh Dugan 4.Gerard Beale 5.Jason Nightingale 6.Gareth Widdop 7.Benji Marshall 8.Ben Creagh (c) 9.Mitch Rein 10.Mike Cooper 11.Leeson Ah Mau 12.Joel Thompson 13.Jack de Belin Interchange 14.Dan Hunt 15.Shane Pumpipi 16.Will Matthews 17.Bronson Harrison 20.Jack Stockwell

Storm:1.Billy Slater 2.Sisa Waqa 3.Kurt Mann 4.Mahe Fonua 5.Young Tonumaipea 6.Ben Hampton 7.Ben Roberts 8.Jesse Bromwich 9.Cameron Smith (c) 10.Bryan Norrie 11.Kevin Proctor 12.Ryan Hoffman
13.Ryan Hinchcliffe Interchange 14.Kenny Bromwich 15.Tohu Harris 16.Junior Moors 17.Jordan McLean 18.Tim Glasby 19.Joel Romelo

The St George Illawarra Dragons and Melbourne Storm will contest for the Emergency Services Cup at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Monday night.

The Dragons’ season hangs by a thread despite last week’s 19-18 win over the Titans,and they remain in 13th position. The 7th-placed Storm welcomed back fullback Billy Slater last week and he put on a rugby league clinic, scoring two tries as the Storm beat the Eels 46-20 and they are one of 4 teams sitting on 18 points.

These sides met back in round 6, with the Storm getting home courtesy of a controversial last second try to winger Young Tonumaipea. The Storm have struggled to replace Cooper Cronk at half back after he broke his arm in the opening minutes of State of Origin 1, while the Dragons have shown signs of improvement over the last month under new coach Paul McGregor.

Trent Merrin has avoided surgery on his ankle but is out of this match, replaced at lock by Jack De Belin. For the Storm, both Ryan Hoffman and Bryan Norrie start the match, relegating Jordan McLean and Tohu Harris back to the bench and Joel Romelo has been added to an extended bench.

The Dragons have been solid, if unspectacular under McGregor, and have won two of their last three matches, but, with a points differential of -69 would probably need to win at least seven of their remaining 10 matches to play finals football for the first time since 2011. The Storm are clearly struggling without the direction of Cronk at half back but the return of Slater gives them a touch of class. Both sides traditionally put on a great show, and the Dragons will be desperate to keep their season alive in front of a parochial home crowd.

Dragons by 4.

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