Craig Cauchi previews the clash between the Dragons and the Tigers as the contest for the final eight heats up.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons have only won 1 game of football in the past two months and have now sunk to 15th place on the ladder. On Saturday night they faced the red hot Roosters and found themselves on the wrong side of the score line at half time. The Dragons effort improved – and the Roosters performance dropped off – and they were able to turn it around in the second half, scoring two tries and only conceding one.
The Tigers have had a mixed month of football where they have picked up two convincing wins in between two unconvincing losses. They still find themselves alive in the race for finals football but will need to ensure they take some of the momentum from their 46-4 victory over Newcastle. The win was made all the more impressive by the players that were out but even slightly less than that form should be enough for their opponents this week.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Patrick Kaufusi has been named to return from concussion, replacing Jacob Host on the bench. Tristan Sailor has retained his position at fullback for now, with Ben Hunt named in the reserves list and every chance of returning from his own concussion issues.
St George Illawarra Dragons squad: 1. Tristan Sailor 2. Zac Lomax 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jonus Pearson 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Corey Norman 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Jackson Ford 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Tyson Frizell 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Korbin Sims 16. Blake Lawrie 17. Patrick Kaufusi 18. Mikaele Ravalawa 19. Josh Kerr 20. Jacob Host 21. Ben Hunt
Excluding any late changes the Tigers will run out with the same 17 they used against Newcastle.
Wests Tigers squad: 1. Corey Thompson 2. Robert Jennings 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Esan Marsters 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Thomas Mikaele 9. Josh Reynolds 10. Oliver Clark 11. Luke Garner 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Matt Eisenhuth 15. Elijah Taylor 16. Alex Twal 17. Michael Chee-Kam 18. Tommy Talau 19. Chris McQueen 20. Sam McIntyre
HEAD TO HEAD
The Dragons might not have had much success in 2019 but their recent record against the Tigers has been a positive one. They enter this encounter having won the last six from nine clashes against their fellow joint venture club. Though, the last time these two teams met, the Tigers were victorious 20-16. The loss came at a concerning time for the Dragons, when their late season slide was building momentum. A year later and now the Dragons are the team looking to spoil the Tigers form and chances of returning to the finals. And while the home side advantage hasn’t been much of a factor this year for the Dragons it will be completed negated by the SCG, playing host to a match that could have meant so much more.
The game could hinge on the opposing teams dummy halves. Cameron McInnes has been there every week for the Dragons and been their most inspiring player for 2019. While Josh Reynolds has had limited chances this year at the Tigers but now finds himself one of the last men standing with the recent injury crisis in the hooker position. He handled himself well last week. The way he provided an extra option out of dummy half helped free up the space for Marshall and Brooks to play off. This week, his speed around the ruck could be crucial up against a Dragons pack that loses their steam quite quickly. For the Dragons, they need to match the energy and effort McInnes brings to the team. Often the first man up in defence and – at times – the one running the ball the hardest, the Dragons players need to follow suit with the man likely to lead them around next year.
The Dragons defence needs to be on alert for Benji Marshall. Last week, Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary were able to rip the Dragons line to shreds in the first half and this week, Marshall will look to emulate his performance against Newcastle. Benji was running the show out there and played with a controlled energy that helped liven up their attack. If Benji comes with the same attitude then he might be able to run rings around his former club. Gareth Widdop has been back for a bit now and is yet to truly shine. Expect the English international to fire in his final two matches of the season. His kicking game as always been an important cog of the Dragons game plan but the way you marshals his troops in attack will define how their team will perform in this game.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: 1st September, Sunday
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
Referee: Matt Cecchin, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
WHO WILL WIN?
Last week the Tigers came up against a team that never turned up while prior to that their performances weren’t the best. The Dragons played a team that no other side would have beaten. The Tigers will have the drive to go extra but this match will end up a scrappy affair. The Dragons will want to end this season on a high for the players that are close to finishing their careers. DRAGONS by 2