Neighbouring rivals St. George Illawarra and Cronulla face off for the second time this season despite the season only being six weeks old, this time the Dragons will play hosts with the game being played at WIN Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
St George-Illawarra Dragons
There isn’t much you could fault about the Dragons’ start to season 2018 with five wins to start the year and all their key players firing the famous Red V Army are starting to get excited. Critics will point to the fact Saints have a recent history of starting their seasons strongly, but are notorious for fading away towards seasons’ end. But with the addition of Ben Hunt and James Graham the Dragons of 2018 look a smarter and tougher side and have looked the team to beat so far in the early rounds.
Whilst the Dragons’ form has been consistent this season the Sharks have been in comparison very inconsistent, after starting the year with two losses they bounced back to beat two top four sides from last year Parramatta and Melbourne, as they started to show some good signs. But they were back to their inconsistent ways last week as they mixed some good football with some poor football in their loss to the Roosters, the constant changing of key positions seems to be effecting their rhythm in attack.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
As expected the Dragons once again keep a mostly unchanged side with only Luciano Leilua being omitted from the bench for Hame Sele, Leilua who made a few crucial errors at the back of last weeks game against Souths injured his ankle whilst playing ISP Cup on Saturday which keeps him out of this week.
With the return of representative star Josh Dugan the biggest question around the Sharks’ lineup for this week was how Shane Flanagan would choose to utilise him. Flanagan has been criticised for making too many changes to his sides’ ‘spine’ this season, so this may be the reason why he decided to put Dugan in the centres for youngster Jesse Ramien and whilst leaving his spine unchanged. Kurt Dillon will debut for James Segeyaro whilst Edrick Lee replaces Sosia Feki on the wing.
In the earlier meeting this season it was Cronulla who got away to a fast start and led 14 – 6 at half time, before producing an error filled second half which invited Saints to snatch the game, which they happily obliged. In that game St. George scored two of their three tries off kicks, and with the Sharks conceding no less than four tries of the boot last week against the Roosters expect Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop to attack this apparent weakness of Cronulla again this week.
The Dragons’ pack are quickly gaining the reputation of being the best pack in the competition with all six members of their starting forwards in career best form, players like Jack DeBelin, Tariq Sims and Paul Vaughan are putting their hands up for representative honours along with current rep players James Graham and Tyson Frizell. The Sharks pack which is also stacked with former or current rep players will be still smarting from losing the forward battle in round two, so expect a square up of sorts and some fire works from the big men.
The Sharks have resisted moving Matt Moylan back to the No.6 jersey leaving him at fullback for this week, Moylan looked dangerous in the first half last week and for the Sharks to win they’ll need their star recruit to lift his performance again. Cronulla will look back on last weeks game and see they played their best footy when they went through the middle and had Moylan playing off the back of the momentum they produced, in the second half they never looked threatening as they started to move the ball sideways too much.
The Sharks have only beaten the Dragons in Wollongong on one occasion, that match coming in season 2013. This will be the 7th meeting of these two sides at Win Stadium.
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 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Hame Sele, 18 Jacob Host, 19 Zachary Lomax, 20 Reece Robson, 21 Blake Lawrie
Sharks: 1 Matt Moylan, 2 Edrick Lee, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 Trent Hodkinson, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Wade Graham (c), 13 Paul Gallen (c), 14 Kurt Capewell, 15 Kurt Dillion, 16 Avagalu Seumanufagai, 17 Joseph Paulo, 18 Jesse Ramien, 19 Scott Sorensen, 20 Jack Williams, 21 Kyle Flanagan
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 13th of April
Venue: Win Stadium, Wollongong
WHO WILL WIN?
In what should be another fiercely contested match both sides will leave nothing on the field, the Dragons will be well their opponents will be desperate so they will be up for the clash. I expect the Dragons to win in another close battle.