The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be looking to get their first win of the season in round 3 as they take on a red-hot Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Tigers have started the season on fire. They have won their opening two games at home against both Manly and the Warriors respectively, and find themselves sitting on top of the ladder after two rounds.
The Bulldogs have had the polar opposite start to the Tigers, and have started their season in the worst way possible. They sit anchored to the bottom of the ladder after suffering two losses by 20 points or more to both the Warriors and Eels.
The Tigers team will be unchanged this week after an impressive 34-6 win over the Warriors in round 2. Star recruit from last season Josh Reynolds remains outside the top 17, despite putting on an attacking masterclass in reserve grade last week. This also marks the first week in the club’s 20 year history they have held top spot on the ladder at any point.
Tigers squad: 1. Moses Mbye 2. Mahe Fonua 3. Robert Jennings 4. Esan Marsters 5. Corey Thompson 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Ben Matulino 9. Robbie Farah 10. Alex Twal 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Luke Garner 13. Elijah Taylor. Interchange: 14. Russell Packer 15. Thomas Mikale 16. Josh Aloiai 17. Michael Chee-Kam. Reserves: 18. Paul Momirovski 19. Josh Reynolds 20. Matt Eisenhuth 21. Chris McQueen
Bulldogs coach Dean Pay has swung the axe hard this week and has made mass changes to his side. Christian Crichton, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Marcelo Montoya, Danny Fualalo and Sauaso Sue have been dropped.
Nick Meaney comes into the side at fullback, which moves Will Hopoate into the centres, and allows Jayden Okunbor to make his NRL debut on the wing. Corey Harawira-Naera starts in the back row and Ofahiki Ogden, Rhyse Martin and Chris Smith form a new look bench with Michael Lichaa.
Bulldogs squad: 1. Nick Meaney, 2. Jayden Okunbor, 3. Kerrod Holland, 4. Will Hopoate, 5. Reimis Smith, 6. Kieran Foran, 7. Lachlan Lewis, 8. Aidan Tolman, 9. Jeremy Marshall-King, 10. Dylan Napa, 11. Josh Jackson, 12. Corey Harawira-Naera, 13. Adam Elliott. Interchange: 14. Michael Lichaa, 15. Ofahiki Ogden, 16. Rhyse Martin, 17. Chris Smith Reserves: 19. Jack Cogger 20. Marcelo Montoya 21. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 22. Sauaso Sue
HEAD TO HEAD
The last time these two teams played was back in round 20 last season, where it was the Bulldogs emerging victorious 16-4 in a closely fought contest. Prior to that they also played in round 12 last year, where the Tigers came away with the two points after a come from behind 14-10 win, also at ANZ Stadium.
When it comes to Campbelltown Stadium, although this has been a happy hunting ground for the Tigers recently, they have never beaten the Bulldogs at the venue, losing all previous six meetings against them.
The key battle in this one will be between the two forward packs, specifically the bench players and the impact they will have on the game. Over the first two games, the Tigers have surprised the competition with how well their bench forwards have played when entering the game. Josh Aloiai, Russell Packer and Thomas Mikaele have been impressive and have provided the Tigers some much-needed go forward when they have entered the game at around the 20 minute mark, which carries on from the platform that is laid down early on by Ben Matulino and Alex Twal.
The Bulldogs have completely changed up their bench, and have brought in some muscle to try and counter balance the strong bench play from the Tigers, with three forwards in Ofahiki Ogden, Chris Smith, and fan favorite Rhyse Martin. If the Bulldogs are going to be any chance of knocking off the Tigers at home, these three men will need to lift the team as soon as they arrive on the field, or the Bulldogs may find themselves in a losing position before halftime.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 31st of March
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
Referee: Grant Atkins, Gavin Badger
WHO WILL WIN?
This game could turn into a blowout if the form from the first two weeks of the season continues on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers are on a roll and sit on top of the ladder, and the Bulldogs have looked woeful at times and are stuck in the wooden spoon position. The new additions for the Bulldogs will definitely bring improvement to the side, but it will be a big ask for them to gel together in their first week and get an upset, especially playing against a red-hot Tigers team at home. Tigers by 4.