The Dragons moved down to second place on the NRL ladder after losing to Melbourne 52-30 in what was the highest scoring game of the season. They will come up against the 10th placed Tigers, who on 16 points (3 wins out of the top 8) are beginning to lose touch with the finals race after the Gold Coast Titans spoiled their Robbie Farah-return party, defeating them 30-12.
In a massive boost for the home side, Ben Hunt, Paul Vaughan, Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims and Jack De Belin have all been named to start after playing in Origin 3 on Wednesday night. They can all be expected to back up seeing as the game is on a Sunday and none of them played major minutes in Origin.
For the Tigers, they will be buoyed by the returns of Benji Marshall, Ben Matulino, David Nofoaluma and Tim Grant. Marshall, in particular, will be keen to strike up a combination with new fullback Moses Mbye in what is their first time playing together, while he will also no doubt be very excited to play with old mate Robbie Farah again for the first time since 2013.
2017 – Round 13 – Dragons def. Tigers 16-12 at ANZ Stadium
2017 – Round 5 – Dragons def. Tigers 28-6 at ANZ Stadium
2016 – Round 20 – Tigers def. Dragons 25-12 at ANZ Stadium
2015 – Round 26 – Dragons def. Tigers 32-30 at ANZ Stadium
2015 – Round 2 – Tigers def. Dragons 22-4 at Campbelltown Stadium
Recent meetings show that the Dragons have a slight edge over Wests, winning the last 2 games and 3 of the last 5. However, the Tigers’ team is totally different to last time the two sides played. Don’t expect prior results to come into calculations when determining the outcome of this one.
|St George Illawarra Dragons||Wests Tigers|
|1||Matt Dufty||Moses Mbye|
|2||Nene MacDonald||David Nofoaluma|
|3||Euan Aitken||Esan Marsters|
|4||Tim Lafai||Kevin Naiqama|
|5||Jason Nightingale||Corey Thompson|
|6||Gareth Widdop||Benji Marshall|
|7||Ben Hunt||Luke Brooks|
|8||James Graham||Russell Packer|
|9||Cameron McInnes||Robbie Farah|
|10||Paul Vaughan||Ben Matulino|
|11||Tyson Frizell||Chris Lawrence|
|12||Tariq Sims||Josh Aloiai|
|13||Jack de Belin||Elijah Taylor|
|14||Jeremy Latimore||Alex Twal|
|15||Kurt Mann||Sauaso Sue|
|16||Leeson Ah Mau||Michael Chee Kam|
|17||Luciano Leilua||Matt Eisenhuth|
|18||Patrick Herbert||Jacob Liddle|
|19||Hame Sele||Luke Garner|
|20||Blake Lawrie||Tim Grant|
|21||Reece Robson||Malakai Watene-Zelezniak|
The facts that matter
For the Dragons, the quality of their performance is becoming more and more important as the finals approach. They have come through the Origin period relatively unscathed – a rarity for teams with such a high level of representation – their only hiccup being the loss to Melbourne last week.
They put in a pretty complete performance against the lowly Sea Eagles, and managed 2-point victories against both the Eels and the Bulldogs when they probably should have lost both games.
That’s fine for the Origin period – it doesn’t matter how you win when you have five top-liners missing. But now that Origin is over winning is not enough – they need to win well.
The Tigers need to win to keep their already faint finals hopes alive. It’s as simple as that.
They are 3 wins out of the top 8. That may seem like a lot, but with 8 games remaining they can easily make up the ground on the teams ahead of them – especially if other results go their way.
But the time for them to start their winning run is now. Wait till next week and it could be too late. Wait till the week after and it’ll definitely be too late. They need to win and they need to win now.
They have Robbie Farah and Moses Mbye on deck, and Benji Marshall returning from injury. It’s now or never for the Tigers.
Given how desperate the situation is, I think the Tigers will give a good account of themselves. By the same token, Origin has been very disruptive to the Dragons – I don’t expect they’ll be at their best straight away just because of the return of their five Origin stars.
However, winning and losing are both habits. The Dragons have proved in recent weeks they can get the job done while below their best while the Wests Tigers have lost games that many thought they would win. In front of a packed house at Kogarah, I expect the Dragons to beat the Tigers in a tight one.
Dragons by 1-6.
Can the Dragons keep their impressive season going with a win at home, or will the Tigers prove too good on the road and earn a much-needed two competition points? Let us know in the comments below.