Round 2 of the NRL season kicks off this Thursday night with a mouth-watering clash between bitter local rivals the Sharks and Dragons at Southern Cross Stadium, Josh Dugan will face his old club the Dragons adding more fuel to the fire of what is expected to be a fiery clash.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After impressing in their trial matches the Sharks headed up to Townsville to take on the Cowboys in Round 1 and despite looking good in patches went down 20-14 to the competition favourites. Coach Shane Flanagan would have been happy with his side’s effort but will be hoping their attack improves this week.
St. George Illawarra Dragons
After getting beat convincingly in the Charity shield and just beating English Side Hull FC Dragons fans could have been forgiven for being a touch nervous going into Round 1 against the Broncos. But despite turning the ball over numerous times in the first half the Dragons eventually put their fans minds at ease with a thumping win against former coach Wayne Bennett.
The Sharks have made a couple of changes to last weeks side with a broken jaw to rookie Sione Katoa forcing him out for a number of games new recruit Aaron Gray will make his club debut on the right wing. Paul Gallen is named to start in place of Kurt Capewell after surprisingly starting off the bench last week, whilst veteran Luke Lewis is again missing.
St. George Illawarra Dragons
Coach Paul McGregor has kept a mostly unchanged side after winning big last week with the only change being Hame Sele being named on the bench instead of veteran Jeremy Latimore, but don’t be surprised to see another late switch as Sele was named to play last week also.
The Sharks and Dragons face off for the first time in season 2018 after sharing the spoils last season with a win a piece both sides will be desperate to gain early bragging rights for this year. These two sides have been fierce rivals ever since the Sharks entered the competition in 1967 and have had some very heated battles over the years. As if this match up wasn’t ‘juicy’ enough the first meeting of Josh Dugan against his old team mates will add yet another story line and expect the Dragons to target Dugan after leaving the club on indifferent terms.
The match up of the two forward packs will be the main event with both sides boasting tough and experienced packs, last season saw forwards from both sides get ‘stuck into each other’ from the first whistle and by throwing James Graham into the mix expect things to only heat up more.
The battle of the halves will also be intriguing after Ben Hunt’s impressive debut against his former side Brisbane, Dragons fans will be hoping his combination with Gareth Widdop continues to grow after showing promising signs last week.
In comparison Sharks new recruit Matt Moylan struggled against the Cowboys as they targeted him with their big back rowers all night causing Moylan to do plenty of defence, the jury is still out to whether or not Moylan is a better five – eighth or fullback and he’ll get another stern test in defence this Thursday night.
Flanagan has identified ball handling and poor discipline as the main reasons for the Sharks Round 1 loss and hopes to rectify these areas this week “We hung in there and defended our line for long periods of time but coming out of end we turned the ball over too often and gave them too many opportunities” – Shane Flanagan
Whilst Dragons coach Paul McGregor was still heaping praise on Ben Hunt and lamenting the clubs Halfback situation until now “Since I took over we’ve always had make shift halfbacks and nice to now have a good one” – Paul McGregor
Thursday’s match up between these two arch rivals will be the 43 meeting between the two sides with the Dragons winning 20 and the Sharks 19 with three draws, more proof how even this contest has been over the years.
Sharks: 1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Aaron Gray, 6 Matthew Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matthew Prior, 11 Jayson Bukuya, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Paul Gallen (c), 14 Kurt Capewell, 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Avagalu Seumanufagai, 17 Joseph Paulo, 18 Kurt Dillon, 19 Trent Hodkinson, 20 Jesse Ramien, 21 Jack Williams
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, 14 Luciano Leilua, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Hame Sele, 18 Jeremy Latimore, 19 Zachary Lomax, 20 Reece Robson, 21 Blake Lawrie
Date: March 15 2018
Venue: Southern Cross Stadium, Cronulla
WHO WILL WIN?
This match up is always close and as the head to head meetings show neither side has dominated this fixture. I expect Cronulla to bounce back from their Round 1 loss and win a tight battle with some possible late controversy.
Sharks by 2