The Tigers have lost four of their past five games to round out a disappointing month of football. They sit just inside the top eight but have the likes of Brisbane and Newcastle breathing down their neck. Coach Ivan Cleary has persisted with his chop and change style throwing a few selection curve balls this week. Tui Lolohea returns to the fullback position after a six-week absence while Robbie Rochow has been dropped after another lacklustre defensive performance.
In a big boost for the Tigers, Josh Reynolds makes his long-anticipated return from a shoulder injury. He’ll come off the bench against his former employer and play time at both hooker and half. Cleary will hope that Reynolds is the solution to the Tigers’ attacking woes. If not, September footy could slip right through their fingers.
Speaking of attacking woes, the Bulldogs have struggled to score points this season. While Kieran Foran has battled on gamely, he’s lacked a seasoned halves partner. The Bulldogs have looked more likely in recent rounds with Jeremy Marshall-King at hooker and have come close against good opposition. After defeating Paramatta in Round 11, the Dogs came within six points of the Sharks last week in a performance that would have encouraged Dean Pay.
2017 – Round 8 – Tigers 18 def. Bulldogs 12 at ANZ Stadium
2016 – Round 18 – Bulldogs 32 def. Tigers 22 at ANZ Stadium
2016 – Round 10 – Bulldogs 36 def. Tigers 4 at ANZ Stadium
2015 – Round 8 – Tigers 38 def. Bulldogs 14 at ANZ Stadium
2015 – Round 5 – Bulldogs 25 def. Tiger 24 at ANZ Stadium
Past meetings between these two have been high scoring affairs with an average of 45 points a match. Chances that record will be maintained this week? Unlikely, given these two are the lowest scoring clubs in the competition. The Dogs average just over 15.7 points a match while the Tigers aren’t much better, averaging just 15.8. All roads lead to this game being a tight, grinding affair.
|1||Tuimoala Lolohea||Moses Mbye|
|2||David Nofoaluma||Brett Morris|
|3||Esan Marsters||John Olive|
|4||Mahe Fonua||Will Hopoate|
|5||Corey Thompson||Marcelo Montoya|
|6||Benji Marshall||Matt Frawley|
|7||Luke Brooks||Kieran Foran|
|8||Russell Packer||Aaron Woods|
|9||Jacob Liddle||Jeremy Marshall-King|
|10||Ben Matulino||David Klemmer|
|11||Chris Lawrence (C)||Josh Jackson (C)|
|12||Michael Chee-Kam||Raymond Faitala-Mariner|
|13||Elijah Taylor||Rhyse Martin|
|14||Alex Twal||Adam Elliott|
|15||Josh Reynolds||Clay Priest|
|16||Matthew Eisenhuth||Renouf Toomaga|
|17||Sauaso Sue||Kerrod Holland|
|18||Josh Aloiai||Greg Eastwood|
|19||Chris McQueen||Reimis Smith|
|20||Tim Grant||Asipeli Fine|
|21||Kevin Naiqama||Michael Lichaa|
The facts that matter
With the Bulldogs season over before it started, you could forgive their squad for lacking motivation. That certainly won’t be a problem for their forward pack, though, as all eyes turn to State of Origin. Hard men, David Klemmer, Aaron Woods and Josh Jackson will all be looking to make a mark in this match and stake their claim for origin. With Brad Fittler’s side still far from decided, this Sunday offers the final chance to impress and nab a Blues jersey.
It’s also a big week for Bulldogs fullback Moses Mbye who faces increasing speculation he may not be at the club next season. The Bulldogs are in an absolute mess with their salary cap. A host of ageing stars on back-ended contracts has meant that they’ll have to move on a number of big-name players to become cap-compliant. First on the chopping block is Moses Mbye. It’s a shame for the 24-year-old who has been the Dog’s best this year. An impressive display against the Tigers will at least ensure he has plenty of suitors should he hit the open market.
Clearly Ivan Cleary hasn’t paid his registration fees because everyone is jumping ‘off the bus’ in Tiger Town. After such a promising start, the Tigers have only managed a solitary win in the last month and that came against the struggling Cowboys. They defended resolutely against an in-form Panthers side but the real issue for the Tigers is scoring points. In their past three, they’ve only managed an average of 8 points per game. No matter how well you defend that’s just not enough to win a game of NRL. Cleary has reacted, adding Lolohea and Reynolds to spark some attacking flair.
The Tigers are also boosted by the return of the human mullet – Mahe Fonua. He was omitted last week after arriving late for training and will look to make amends for that with another big performance on Sunday afternoon. Since securing a spot in the side, Fonua has averaged 163 metres and amassed a whopping 13 tackle breaks. All that extra hair certainly isn’t slowing the hulking winger down!
Both sides have had an indifferent month of football. While the Bulldogs haven’t got the points, they’ve looked competitive against the Broncos and the Sharks. For the Tigers, Cleary is looking to shake things up and spark his side into form and the inclusion of Josh Reynolds may just be what the doctor ordered.
Based on recent form, it’s the Dogs who have had the better run of results. They’ve slowly been improving and building towards a win – they just need to score points! For that reason, we’re tipping the Bulldogs to sneak home in the upset. Dogs by four.
It promises to be a tight affair as the Tigers host the Bulldogs. Who gets the all-important win in this Sunday afternoon matchup?
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