Long time rivals St. George and Canterbury will lock horns once again at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah. Both sides still have plenty to play for in this game as the Dragons look to lock up a top four spot and the Bulldogs try to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
St George-Illawarra Dragons
After going through a shocking run of form that included five losses in six games the Dragons were being labelled ‘chokers’ once again as they looked like they would be limping into September after another strong start to the season. But despite the loss of Captain Gareth Widdop and Blues Enforcer Paul Vaughan to injury the Dragons turned their poor form around to beat a desperate Tigers’ side at Leichhardt Oval.
The Bulldogs are currently experiencing their best run of form for season 2018 winning three of their past four matches, with all of their wins coming against sides still in the running for a finals birth. The mid-season departures of Moses Mbye and Aaron Woods coupled with the season ending injury to key play maker Keiran Foran were suppose to condemn the Bulldogs to the wooden spoon, but the emergence of five-eighth Lachlan Lewis has breathed life into the side and given their fans something to cheer for at the end of what has been a difficult season.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
Paul McGregor named an almost unchanged side from last weeks’ win with the only change being the inclusion of veteran winger Jason Nightingale named to start with rookie Jordan Pereira moving to the bench in place of Jai Field. Tyson Frizell is again named in the second row but expect him to start in the middle with monster back rower Luciano Leilua starting on the edge, Leeson Ah Mau to be the man dropping back to the bench.
Dean Pay has named an unchanged side this week following their impressive win over the Warriors. Pay has tinkered with his spine for most of the season but he seems to have found his favoured combination. Lachlan Lewis has been a revelation in the famous No.6 jersey his uncle Wally Lewis wore and it’s no coincidence the only game the Bulldogs have lost in the past month Lewis didn’t play.
This meeting between two of the games’ oldest rivals has a similar feeling to their round 26 meeting last season where the Bulldogs upset the Dragons to knock them out of the finals. On that day the Dragons needed a win to reach the finals but this time around they need the win to secure a top four spot, and whilst the Bulldogs will again miss finals football this year they seem to have found form towards the end of the year much like last season.
The Dragons shouldn’t need a reminder of how difficult a side the Bulldogs are to beat, but if they did they got it in round 14 when they needed a late penalty goal to get past the Blue and White. The Dogs have learnt a few new tricks since that game and will offer a lot more in attack, so the Red V must be wary and ready to fight ‘fire with fire’ and get their own attacking game in order which has been struggling since Origin.
James Graham always plays with plenty of passion and expect no less this time around as he faces his former club. Graham spilt blood for the Dogs and still has plenty of fans and friends at Belmore, one close friend David Klemmer will be the man going head to head with Graham. The battle between the two aggressive bookends will be the highlight of the match, but in a game that will likely go down to the wire will it be the inform Lewis that comes up with the winning play again? Or will we see the much maligned Ben Hunt overturn his poor form of late to lead the Red V to victory? Either way this promises to be a tight affair.
Canterbury dominate this fixture after winning six games in a row until the round 14 clash this season, the Bulldogs have come out winners in this game 23 times compared to the Dragons’ 12.
Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Kurt Mann 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jack de Belin 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Jordan Pereira 16. Blake Lawrie 17. Luciano Leilua 18. Zac Lomax 19. Jai Field 20. Paul Vaughan 21. Jacob Host
Bulldogs: 1. Will Hopoate 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. Kerrod Holland 5. Reimis Smith 6. Lachlan Lewis 7. Matt Frawley 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. David Klemmer 11. Josh Jackson 12. Rhyse Martin 13. Adam Elliott 14. Jeremy Marshall-King 15. Danny Fualalo 16. Ofahiki Ogden 17. Greg Eastwood 18. John Olive 19. Francis Tualau 20. Renouf To’omaga 21. Fa’amanu Brown
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 26th of August
Venue: Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
WHO WILL WIN?
This game will likely be a low scoring match with no much between the two sides if recent form and history has anything to do with it. The Dragons seemed to turn the corner last week and for that reason I expect Saints to come out winners 1-12.