What a huge game in Wollongong on Sunday afternoon.
Stgeorge Illawarra began the season with no expectations but then charged out of the blocks for the first two months to lead the competition at one stage. Since then, they have dropped seven of their next 10 matches to be clinging on to the final spot in the top eight.
They haven’t been playing bad but it seems as though injuries and the return of several in-form players have disrupted the flow they had at the start of 2017.
The Dragons go into this one off the back of a Golden Point loss to the Raiders last week in a match they could have easily won.
Manly will go into this game with a fair bit of confidence having lost just once in the past two months. They head to Wollongong having knocked off a feisty Tigers outfit 28-16 last Sunday afternoon.
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
STGEORGE ILLAWARRA will enjoy the fact this game is at Wollongong.
They are 5-3 at home this season but two of those losses have been at WIN Stadium (against Melbourne and Parramatta), however, there is no doubt that the Dragons appear a slightly better team in front of the Dragon Army.
In three matches at WIN this season they have averaged 22 points per game, however, all those matches were in the first half of their campaign where they were the best attacking team in the competition. More recently, they are ranked in the bottom third for points scored. Is heading back to Wollongong the answer to rediscovering their mojo?
ARE THEY GOING THAT GOOD?
Manly are flying and sit third on the table on 26 competition points.
With six wins in their past seven games many would argue that the Sea Eagles are the form team of the competition. The big question is are they?
Their past three games are the ones that have caught our attention and put a little doubt in our mind as to just how good MANLY are travelling.
In the first match, they were slow out of the blocks and were down by 16 against the Warriors before coming back to win. Then they did everything in their power to lose against the Panthers while the Tigers had them on the ropes last week before some fortunate plays got them a few tries to eventually put the decision beyond doubt.
Prior to that they looked sensational in dismantling Cronulla at Shark Park but in Round 14 they were lucky to get away with a four-point win over the Knights, with the now infamous Aku Uate ‘drop ball’ try the ultimate difference.
Good teams find a way to win matches and Manly have certainly been doing that but at some point your luck has to run out. Punters should take on board if they want to take the shorts about them winning here.
Manly has won four of the past six contests between the sides.
They met earlier this year at Brookvale Oval when the Dragons were sensational in dismantling the home side 35-10. The sides haven’t played too often at WIN Stadium but the Red V has had the measure of the Northern Beaches outfit when they have by winning four straight.
We can feel the desperation here for the Dragons and are willing to take a chance on them.
The boys at Unibet are offering $2.18 for the win which is something that appeals to us considering it is getting desperate for them. They are currently one win in front of a chasing pack of teams and need to regain some momentum if they want to make the semis for just second time since 2011.
Despite their problems of late, Stgeorge Illawarra still lead the NRL for run metres per game (1515m) which means that they should get their fair of chances to put the Manly defence under pressure. The return of State Of Origin forward Tyson Frizell is a big inclusion for the home side as is Euan Aitken in the centres.
While we feel that there is some advantage for the Dragons playing at WIN Stadium, traveling won’t concern Manly who enjoy one of the best road records in the competition.
This game will provide a finals-like atmosphere and intensity but if Paul Macgregor’s side want to play finals footy then they need to start winning again and this will be the perfect game to do it.
JOEL THOMPSON TO SCORE A TRY – the Dragons second-rower has six for the season and narrowly missed out on getting one last week.