The high flying Dragons return to Win Stadium for the first time in season 2018, after starting the year with three straight wins expectations are high for the Red V as they face the improving Newcastle Knights who were brought back down to earth last week.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Three games three wins ! It doesn’t get any better than that for the joint venture side and the good news for their fans is they have improved in every game. After starting off with a win over a disappointing Broncos side they grinned out a tough win over local rivals the Sharks, but last week Gareth Widdop and co. showed off their attacking brilliance as they laid on nine tries against the Titans.
After starting the season with two straight wins the Knights were reminded they still have a lot to learn and earn before they can be counted as one of the top sides in the competition. In a heavily anticipated clash between the Knights and Roosters pitching Cooper Cronk v Mitchell Pearce, the Knights were given a footballing lesson as they struggled in the wet conditions.
As you would expect from a side who are unbeaten so far in this season there are no changes for the Dragons this week, Paul McGregor’s side have so far avoided injuries and suspensions to help aid their perfect start.
Nathan Brown was quite scathing in his comments after the game saying some players “Didn’t put in the required effort” and were “Too used to losing”. Although he may have been tempted to make changes Brown has only made the one change, a forced one being Connor Watson out with a shoulder injury replaced in the starting lineup by Brock Lamb with veteran Chris Heighington returning to the bench.
When the Saints look back on last season’s failure to make the top 8 there are multiple matches that they will think they should have won to get that one extra win which would have got them into the final 8, but the round 21 loss to the Knights who at that point had only won two games all season may stand out the most.
The Dragons were also lucky to beat Newcastle earlier that season after coming back from a 16 point deficit at half time. The Red V will know they must start well after conceding first half leads in both matches last season. McGregor will have watched Newcastle’s games this year and would have taken notice of their struggles in and around the ruck, expect Cameron McInness and the Dragons pack to target Newcastle’s middle defence.
For the Knights it’s all about defence for them and one would expect Nathan Brown would have had his side working hard on it all week. Coming up against a side bristling with confidence and form Newcastle will look to shut down key men Widdop, Ben Hunt and exciting fullback Matt Dufty who have done all the damage so far this year for St. George. Limiting the effect this trio has on the game is key to a Knights upset victory.
“The Dragons are riding high, they’ve got a pretty formidable forward pack so we’ll have to try and contain them”. – Jamie Burher
“I think it’s fair to say they’ve been the most consistent team in the competition and in all aspects, as a team they have been putting in some great performances”. – Jamie Burher
Despite having a poor record overall against the Dragons the Knights actually have a winning record against them at Win Stadium winning two of the three meetings there. Newcastle will hope this trend continues.
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 Jacob Host, 21 Blake Lawrie
Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Tautau Moga, 5 Nathan Ross, 6 Brock Lamb, 7 Mitchell Pearce (c), 8 Herman Ese’ese, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Jacob Lillyman, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Aidan Guerra, 13 Mitchell Barnett, 14 Jamie Buhrer (c), 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jacob Saifiti, 17 Daniel Saifiti, 18 Ken Sio, 19 Jack Cogger, 20 Danny Levi, 21 Luke Yates
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 1st of April
Venue: Win Stadium, Wollongong
WHO WILL WIN?
It’s hard to go past the Dragons when they’re playing so well and especially when the Knights were beaten so badly last week, but Rugby League is a funny game and this year has already shown anyone can beat anyone on their day. I still think the Dragons will be too strong but expect a better showing by the Knights this week.