St. George Illawarra take on Melbourne in what promises to be an absolute blockbuster encounter, the competition leaders against the defending premiers on a Sunday afternoon at Jubilee Oval in Kogarah, it doesn’t get much better than that.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After losing their first game of the season to New Zealand Warriors the Dragons bounced back in fashion with a dominant victory over Sydney Roosters in the prestigious ANZAC Day clash. Their forwards were back to their brutal best and after crossing in the opening minutes of the game they never looked in troubled as they cruised to victory.
Despite starting the season with a few ‘un-Storm-like’ performances the reigning premiers have really hit their stride in the last three weeks notching up big wins over the Knights, Broncos and Warriors. The win over the Warriors was the most impressive of the three with the Kiwi side equal top of the ladder they went into the game expecting to win, but with the score 38-0 at halftime the game was over and the Storm were officially back in business for season 2018.
Saints continue to have a dream run with injuries this season which has obviously been a great help to them as they continue to lead the competition. Paul McGregor has named hooker Reece Robson on the bench for his debut NRL game, it will be interesting to see how much game time he gets and if McGregor will have Robson and Cameron McInness on the field at the same time.
In comparison the Storm have a number of injury worries and will be missing some key players for this match, Origin Prop Tim Glasby has broken his thumb and will join Jesse Bromwich on the sidelines although the return of lock Dale Finucane helps soften the blow. Suli Vunivalu will also return from injury for Young Tonumaipea who will be on standby for centre Curtis Scott who despite being named is in serious doubt due to an ankle injury.
Although there have already been some big match ups this season this is undoubtedly the game of the season so far, the Dragons are flying with seven wins with just the one defeat and you could argue all of their starting players are in career best form. The Dragons’ forwards have been gaining plenty of praise with many experts calling for the entire pack barring Englishmen James Graham to be picked for NSW.
For Melbourne despite their indifferent start to the year they are now in top form and have built their club’s culture on taking on and defeating rival challengers to their title as the best side in the competition. With plenty of history between these two sides dating back to the 1999 Grand Final where Storm won in controversial fashion, this promises to be another epic chapter in Dragons v Storm history.
In a game where there are so many quality players on the field it’s hard to pick one key match up, but in this game the battle between the two hookers Cameron Smith and Cameron McInness has plenty riding on it and not just the outcome of this match. McInness has been heavily backed to earn his State of Origin Debut this year for the Blues and if he does win the No.9 jumper he will have to face off against Cameron Smith of course, no doubt NSW selectors and coach Brad Fittler will be keeping a close watch on how the younger Cameron does against the older and experienced Cameron.
Also expect both sides to go after the opponents key play makers to try to shut them out of the game, Tariq Sims has been the man doing the job for the Red V all season and gave ex-Strom halfback Cooper Cronk nightmares after harassing him all game on ANZAC Day. For the Storm the return of Finucane has come at just the right time as he has often been the man to do the job for Craig Bellamy. The Dragons’ halves Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop have been carving sides up all season so expect Finucane to be paying close attention to both of them, keeping their opponents play makers quiet will be key to either side getting the competition points.
There is no other side that the Dragons struggle against more than the Melbourne Storm having won just the 9 games from 36 matches played.
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 Reece Robson, 18 Jacob Host, 19 Zachary Lomax, 20 Mitchell Allgood, 21 Hame Sele
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ryley Jacks, 8 Christian Welch, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Dale Finucane, 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Kenny Bromwich, 16 Joe Stimson, 17 Sam Kasiano, 18 Young Tonumaipea, 19 Patrick Kaufusi, 20 Tui Kamikamica, 21 Brodie Croft
Date: Sunday 6th of May
Venue: Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
WHO WILL WIN?
Despite historically struggling against the Storm I expect the Dragons to beat Melbourne in a very close encounter, this game could go either way but with Melbourne missing a couple of key men I think the Dragons will get the job done. Dragons 1-12