Andrew Pelechaty previews the final game of round 17, between the St. George-Illawarra Dragons and Canberra Raiders.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
St. George-Illawarra Dragons
One win out of the top eight, the Dragons were unlucky to lose to Melbourne last Thursday night. A Cameron Smith penalty goal in the 75th minute was the difference with both sides scoring two tries each. Jeremy Latimore and Mikaele Ravalawa scored for the Dragons. The loss left the 6-9 Dragons still one win outside the eight.
After three consecutive wins, Canberra were on fire in the opening half-hour against Parramatta in Darwin. Then it fell apart with the humidity taking its toll, and former Raider Blake Ferguson scoring two tries as Parramatta won 22-16. Basic errors killed the Raiders’ hopes and led an angry Ricky Stuart to call it their worst loss of the year. The embarrassing display was an unfortunate regression to the ‘Faiders’ tag that Canberra have worked so hard to shake. The 9-6 Raiders are still fourth after losses last weekend to Newcastle and Cronulla-Sutherland. Importantly, they’re only one win behind the Sydney Roosters (second) and South Sydney (third).
St. George-Illawarra Dragons
Queensland half Corey Norman will back up from Origin III, though Ben Hunt, Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell are in the reserves. Tariq Sims returns from suspension for Mitchell Allgood, with Korbin Sims moving to the bench.
St. George-Illawarra Dragons squad: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jonus Pearson 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Darren Nicholls 8. Jeremy Latimore 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Jacob Host 12. Tariq Sims 13. Luciano Leilua 14. Korbin Sims 15. Reece Robson 16. Patrick Kaufusi 17. Josh Kerr 18. Tristan Sailor 19. Jason Saab 20. James Graham 21. Ben Hunt 22. Paul Vaughan 23. Tyson Frizell
Only one change for Canberra after a long break. Nick Cotric returns, with Sebastian Kris dropping out.
Canberra Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Nick Cotric 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Siliva Havili 15. Corey Horsburgh 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Ryan Sutton 18. Sam Williams 19. Michael Oldfield 20. Royce Hunt 21. Emre Guler
HEAD TO HEAD
Ever since breaking the infamous ‘hoodoo’ in 2014, the Dragons have enjoyed a decent record against Canberra, with four wins from the last five games, including one win at WIN Stadium. Canberra’s sole win was in round 19, 2017 at GIO Stadium, with Dave Taylor’s offload to Elliot Whitehead giving the Raiders an 18-14 Golden Point victory.
Corey Norman v Jack Wighton. A battle of the Origin players, with Wighton desperate to atone for a rare shocker against Parramatta. While the fullback-turned-five-eighth makes mistakes, he’s quick to rebound with a clever kick or some solid defence. That didn’t happen in Darwin (though he scored an early try), which summed up Canberra’s nightmare second half.
Norman – formerly of Brisbane and Parramatta – has played 11 games for the Red V, scoring 16 points, making 8 try assists, 7 line break assists, and a tackling efficiency of nearly 85 per cent. With 180 games to Wighton’s 144, Norman has a slight edge in experience. The Origin rebound factor will be huge: Norman will be coming off his Origin debut, so that adrenaline rush could carry over for the Dragons on Sunday night.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday Jul 14
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
WHO WILL WIN?
Following the embarrassing loss in Darwin, Canberra will be stewing and ready for redemption. The Raiders will have no excuses, with a two-week break between games. While playing at WIN Stadium gives the Dragons an edge, Canberra’s desperation to keep their top four spot will be enough.
Canberra by six.