Craig Cauchi previews the Monday afternoon clash between Canterbury Bulldogs and St George Illawarra Dragons, with both sides struggling for form.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Bulldogs followed their come from behind victory over the Titans with back-to-back losses against two teams inside the top eight in Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders. The Bulldogs have been able to compete in these matches but have found it difficult at times to turn the pressure and momentum into points. Despite their recent loses and difficulties in points they will take great confidence entering into this match against the Dragons.
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons had the past week off, due to the bye, and will be hoping the rest will see them return to their best. They had an improved showing against the Sharks but still went down for their fifth straight loss. Their performance was admiral with the rising injury toll but also highlighted the deficiencies in both attack and defence. The Dragons are a side low on confidence.
The Bulldogs have named a similar team to the one that took on the Raiders. Adam Elliot swaps with Raymond Faitala-Mariner in the backrow and Dylan Napa is named on the reserves but expect him to be included in the side if he makes it through Wednesday nights encounter. There are a few interesting names in the reserves that could suggest more changes are to come before kick-off.
Canterbury Bulldogs squad: 1. Nick Meaney 2. Christian Crichton 3. Marcelo Montoya 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Kieran Foran 7. Jack Cogger 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Ofahiki Ogden 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Adam Elliot INTERCHANGE: 14. Rhyse Martin 15. Danny Fualalo 16. Chris Smith 17. Sauaso Sue RESERVES: 19. Lachlan Lewis 20. Corey Harawira-Naera 21. Michael Lichaa 22. Dylan Napa
St George Illawarra Dragons
Injuries and origin has seen a number of changes to the Dragons side, with the final makeup unlikely to be resolved until their Origin stars return from camp. Matt Dufty returns to fullback with Zac Lomax replacing the injured Timoteo Lafai in the centres. Mikaele Ravalawa returns to the team in place of Jordan Pereira who has been dropped. Jai Field has been named at halfback for now with Corey Norman named to return at five-eight. Blake Lawrie moves into prop for the injured James Graham with Luciano Leilua taking the lock position. Korbin Sims and Jacob Host start in place of Blues forwards Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell. Jeremy Lattimore, Lachlan Timm, and Josh Kerr have been included on the bench.
St George Illawarra Dragons squad: 1. Matt Dufty 2. Jonus Pearson 3. Euan Aitken 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Jai Field 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Korbin Sims 11. Jacob Host 12. Tariq Sims 13. Luciano Leilua INTERCHANGE: 14. Jeremy Lattimore 15. Reece Robson 16. Lachlan Timm 17. Josh Kerr RESERVES: 18. Jordan Pereira 19. Mitchell Allgood 20. Ben Hunt 21. Tyson Frizell 22. Paul Vaughan
HEAD TO HEAD
The Dragons were big winners over the Bulldogs when these two sides met earlier on in the year. The round 5 encounter saw the Dragons win 40-4 but it was a side playing with confidence off the back of two one-point victories. This will be a very different encounter from that one and the Bulldogs will be hoping to replicate the performance they put in against the Dragons the second time they played them last year. A big confidence boost will be the return of Kieran Foran, who has been steadily improving in form, and was missing from the last match with the Dragons.
The Bulldogs will definitely view this match as one they can win. The match against the Raiders showed that they have the quality and defence and are able to stick in matches. They need to improve their attack and will fancy themselves a chance of setting up some decent opportunities against the Dragons. The matchup will all come down to how the spine will combine, depending on which players are selected in those positions. If the Bulldogs can play with pace then space should open up for someone like Nick Meaney to exploit with his quick footwork and Kieran Foran with players running off of him. There is no questioning the Bulldogs effort and discipline. They have been getting through their sets without making too many mistakes, but with an average score of under 13 per game, they need to begin turning their high completion rates into points.
The biggest factor, not only for this match but for the Dragon’s season, could come down to how many players Paul McGregor allows to backup after Origin. The decision to play them could help them return to some sign of form but could also backfire towards the end of the season. Not playing them might make a matchup many people expect the Dragons to win harder but would ensure that their star players remain well rested during the Origin period. The return of Corey Norman will certainly help the Dragons if the players are rested and the experience of Jeremy Lattimore will count for something too. And while Matt Dufty has plenty of inconsistent moments during matches, his x-factor and speed provide a point of difference in a Dragons team that can often look pedestrian in attack. The Dragons will need to return to their quick line speed in defence, which worked effectively against Manly and Newcastle when they were on their winning run, if they want to regain confidence in attack.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: 10th Monday 2019
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Referee: Gerard Sutton and Liam Kennedy
WHO WILL WIN?
If the Dragons Origin players back up then expect them to put it in a more determined effort. The return of Corey Norman and Matt Dufty will be a boost to their attack, which might just prove the difference. The Bulldogs will sniff an opportunity and will be keen to throw something a little different in attack. If they can throw a few surprises at a Dragons team low on confidence then they can spring an upset. This will be close but DRAGONS BY 4.