Matt Pritchard previews the St George-Illawarra Dragons and Newcastle Knights clash to be played in Mudgee on Sunday.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
St George-Illawarra Dragons
In Magic Round the Dragons went down to New Zealand Warriors by 26-18 despite being ahead 18-6 after twenty-two minutes. This was their third consecutive loss which includes the ANZAC Day loss to the Sydney Roosters, where the Red V showed plenty of courage but couldn’t get over the line.
Newcastle are playing like a top eight side and have strung three straight wins together, starting with the Mitchell Pearce inspired win over Parramatta in late April and with their latest win last Saturday against the Bulldogs. The signs are looking good for the Knights with Pearce and Kalyn Ponga firing ahead of Origin selection in just over a week from now.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
There are no changes to Paul McGregor’s side the went down to the Warriors. Jonus Pearson and Korbin Sims have been cut from the nineteen-man squad announced on Saturday. Jai Field will play five-eighth with Corey Norman still missing with a cheekbone injury. With the Federal Court case going against Jack deBelin, he’s unlikely to return to the Red V anytime soon.
St George-Illawarra Dragons squad: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Zac Lomax 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Jai Field 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Blake Lawrie 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Euan Aitken 16. Jacob Host 17. Luciano Leilua 18. Mitchell Allgood 20. Josh Kerr
Nathan Brown goes in with the same trusted outfit that won at Suncorp Stadium last Saturday. Pasami Saulo and Jamie Buhrer cut from the squad twenty-four hours from kick-off.
Newcastle Knights squad: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Connor Watson 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Danny Levi 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Tim Glasby 14. Kurt Mann 15. Herman Ese’ese 16. James Gavet 17. Sione Mata’utia 18. Josh King 21. Mason Lino
HEAD TO HEAD
St George-Illawarra Dragons in recent history hold a healthy record against the Newcastle Knights having won fourteen of the last eighteen games played since 2009. In round 3 this year it took Corey Norman’s field goal with two minutes left in Golden Point to separate the two sides.
There’s a lot of anticipation about the opposing fullback’s leading into this game. Kalyn Ponga is a certainty for Queensland Maroons Origin selection. His transition to fullback came when these two teams met in round 3 in an epic 88-minute game where the Dragons won 13-12. Ponga set up two tries and made five tackle breaks in that effort. He’s the man the Dragons will need to contain. On the opposite site, Matt Dufty has made the most of his return to the NRL side with some solid performances. The match against the Roosters showed how good he is at the back with some fantastic attacking runs. The last three weeks he’s been consistently run for more than a hundred metres.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday May 19, 2pm
Venue: Glen Willow Stadium, Mudgee
Referees: Gerard Sutton and Liam Kennedy
WHO WILL WIN?
Knights are the form team going into this clash. If they can keep the forward intensity up, and the Ponga-Pearce combination fire, the Knights might just beat their bogey side. Knights by 8