Schick Hydro Preview: Dragons v Warriors
UOW Jubilee Oval
Sunday, 6.30pm AEDT, 8.30pm NZT
Are the Dragons going to prove an enigmatic nightmare for tipsters in 2017? And will Kieran Foran be the answer to the Warriors' woes?
This Sunday's Round 4 NRL Telstra Premiership clash between St George Illawarra and the Warriors should give us a better idea of the answer to both of those questions.
After beginning the year with a 42-10 demolition of Penrith, St George Illawarra copped a 34-16 loss to Parramatta in Round 2 before bouncing back to secure a gritty 16-10 win over Cronulla last Sunday.
With those results in mind it's hard to know what to expect from the 'Red V', but a win against the Warriors could see them end the round at the top of the ladder.
The Warriors meanwhile have a victory and two losses to their name so far, and look likely to have the services of star recruit Kieran Foran for the first time this year, where it will be hoped he can spark life into an attack which has scored only 22 points in their last 160 minutes of football.
The Dragons have unsurprisingly kept the same 17 that got the job done against the Sharks last week, but the visitors have some movement as they welcome back captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck from a week out with concussion.
Tuimoala Lolohea assumes the wing spot made vacant by Manu Vatuvei's knee injury suffered in last Friday's 24-12 loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs, while Foran is named in the No.21 jersey on an extended bench.
Foran is a good chance to start at five-eighth with Mafoa'aeata Hingano to drop back to the interchange at the expense of Erin Clark, or fall out of the 17 completely.
The Dragons will take the field in a new-look uniform, sporting their ISC Marvel Heroes Ant Man jersey.
Why the Dragons can win: Not many would have predicted that St George Illawarra's attack would be a highlight to start their 2017 campaign, but after three games the Dragons possess the NRL's equal-third best attacking record, averaging 26.4 points per outing. In addition Paul McGregor's side are ranked in the competition's top five for offloads and total run metres. If they can get it going against the Warriors, who are yet to keep a team to under 22 points this season, it's unlikely they will be matched on the scoreboard.
Why the Warriors can win: So far in 2017 the Warriors have averaged just under 38 sets with the ball per game and have won the possession count in all three fixtures. They are enjoying plenty of time with the Steeden in hand and with completion rates of 80 per cent or higher in their last two matches, the Kiwi club have also shown they know how to look after it as well. If they can achieve somewhere around those numbers and improve the finish to their sets it's going to make the Dragons' job very hard.
The History: Played 24; Dragons 19; Warriors 5. Aside from their most recent meeting, which the Warriors won 26-10 in Auckland, the Dragons have completely owned these head-to-head fixtures, winning 15 of the last 17. The news is even worse for the Warriors on the road against St George Illawarra, with just one away victory against the Red V in 12 attempts since 1999.
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Minutes Played, Tackles, All Run Metres, Tackle Breaks.
What are the odds: The money has been coming in at a rate of three to one in favour of the Dragons and they've been backed to win 13+ over the Warriors as well. Euan Aitken is the best backed in the first try-scorer market after bagging a double last weekend. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: David Munro. Assistant referee: Chris Sutton. Sideline officials: Dave Ryan and Peter Gough. Review official: Luke Patten. Senior review official: Ashley Klein.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 6.30pm (AEDT). Sky Sports - Live coverage from 8.30pm (NZT).
NRL.com predicts: Even in the face of back-to-back defeats there is plenty of reason to believe the Warriors can be competitive this weekend, but they haven't yet shown anything near what the Dragons have at their best. St George Illawarra are more efficient in attack and look more confident in defence. Add in the fact that the Warriors traditionally struggle against the Dragons, and really struggle against the Dragons on the road, and it's hard to go against the Red V in this one. Dragons by 14.