A rejuvenated Wests Tigers look to continue their late-season surge against the struggling Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After a couple of impressive performances from this new-look Bulldogs spine, they’ve begun to drop off in the past few weeks. They followed up their loss to the first-placed South Sydney Rabbitohs with a loss to the last-placed Parramatta Eels by eight last Thursday night. They’ll be looking to bottle the same energy they had at the start of last week and apply it to an 80-minute performance.
The Wests Tigers have surged into ninth spot on the back of two impressive wins against teams inside the top four. Their defensive steel was show in both victories, along with a new-found life in attack on the back of some key mid-season signings. The Tigers will look to continue their momentum and will head into this match as deserved favourites.
Ofahiki Ogden is in line for his fourth appearance, coming onto the bench for Clay Priest, in the only change from last week. Expect the Dogs to run out 1-17 as the team is cut over the next few days.
Josh Aloiai is out after breaking his hand, with youngster Luke Garner moving from the bench and into the starting side. Robbie Rochow is the extra face on the bench in the only other change for the Tigers.
The Tigers wouldn’t look out of place in the top eight and need to win the majority of their games – and rely on others – to be any chance of continuing into September. The Bulldogs are in a scrap to avoid the wooden spoon. They met two months ago, where the Tigers scrapped away with a 14-10 victory, with Chris Lawrence scoring the matchwinner.
This is the second time this season that brothers Benji Marshall and Jeremy Marshall-King will square off, but it’s the battle of the fullbacks that will go a long way to helping either team win. Moses Mbye comes up against his former team, and will be looking to continue his strong performances. His key role will be to support his halves and hooker and provide the middle link to unleash their talented backline. Their forwards have been enormous in getting through their early work and will need all the support they can get from Moses and the other backs to get their sets rolling.
Moses’ opposite, Will Hopoate, is probably playing in his preferred position. He is Canterbury’s most experienced player in their spine and will need to offer support for his halves. The Bulldogs have been setting the tempo early with their penchant for offloads and it’s a facet of their game that can help break down the Tigers’ defence. Hopoate’s support through the middle will be an essential part of their game plan.
The battle of the front rowers should be exciting. Russell Packer and David Klemmer have great numbers for the season, but the greatest influence has been their leadership. How these two forwards will have an impact on the game and their teammates will go a long way to deciding this one.
The Wests Tigers will be looking to win their third-straight match against Canterbury.
Canterbury Bulldogs: 1 Will Hopoate, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Kerrod Holland, 5 Reimis Smith, 6 Lachlan Lewis, 7 Jeremy Marshall-King, 8 Aiden Tolman, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 David Klemmer, 11 Josh Jackson (c), 12 Rhyse Martin, 13 Adam Elliot.
Interchange: 14 Fa’amanu Brown, 15 Greg Eastwood, 16 Ofahiki Ogden, 17 Danny Fualalo
Wests Tigers: 1 Moses Mbye, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Corey Thompson, 6 Benji Marshall, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer (c), 9 Robbie Farah, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Michael Chee-Kam, 12 Luke Garner, 13 Elijah Taylor.
Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 15 Sauaso Sue, 16 Robbie Rochow, 17 Matthew Eisenhuth
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, July 27
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Kick-off: 7:55 PM
WHO WILL WIN?
The Tigers should win this one and that could play perfectly into the Bulldogs’ hands. With nothing to lose, expect the Bulldogs to come out firing and push their early advantage into points. If the Tigers’ defence is up to the task than they should have far too much class for the Bulldogs. With this match played at night – unlike the Tigers’ past two daytime victories against the Bulldogs – it should ensure a close, low-scoring affair.
Tigers by eight.