Dragons v Sharks: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview: Dragons v Sharks
UOW Jubilee Oval
Friday 6pm

Club footy returns in a big way with the Dragons set to host local rivals Cronulla in a battle that has top four implications. 

St George Illawarra currently sit in second spot on 12 competition points while the Sharks are hot on their heels in third place with a slightly inferior for-and-against after nine rounds. 

The Dragons are on a two-game losing streak following losses to the Roosters and Storm but they'll take plenty of positives from their second-half fightback against Melbourne in their most recent outing.  

Interestingly, the Dragons – who boast the competition's best attack – will face the league's stingiest defence for the second game in a row. They were able to pile on five tries against the Storm but will face a stern test against a Cronulla side that has only allowed 36 points in their last four matches. 

The Red V will be without Josh Dugan who fractured his cheekbone in the Anzac Test. Jason Nightingale replaces him in the No.1 jersey, Taane Milne comes onto the wing and Jai Field joins the bench. 

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has made one change from the side that beat the Tigers with Luke Lewis returning in the back-row for Tony Williams who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. 


Why the Dragons can win:
UOW Jubilee Oval has not been a happy hunting ground for the Sharks, with Shane Flanagan's men managing just one win at the venue this millennium. Their last win at the ground was back in 2007 with the Sharks currently on a four-game losing streak. In those four losses, Cronulla have been outscored 122-38. The one thing working in their favour is their 5-0 record on the road in 2017. 

Why the Sharks can win: Cronulla have shown this year that they are at their most threatening in the third quarter of games; in other words the 20 minutes after half-time. The Sharks have piled on 12 tries in that period while the Dragons have coughed up 11 four-pointers in that time; easily their worst quarter in games this season. Importantly, the Sharks scored their only tries in the Round 3 loss to St George Illawarra in the 50th and 57th minutes, while they ran in three unanswered tries in that quarter to blow the Raiders away only a week earlier. 

 


The history: Played 39; Dragons 20: Sharks 18; Drawn 1. The Dragons have had the wood on their nearest neighbours with seven wins from their past 10 meetings, including a 16-10 victory at Shark Park in Round 3. 

What are the odds: There are more individual bets on the Dragons but nearly twice as much money has been placed on the Sharks so all of the bigger bets with Sportsbet are on Cronulla. Sharks 1-12 is the way punters are going and Valentine Holmes is holding most bets for first try scorer. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au

Match officials: Referee: Gerard Sutton. Assistant referee: Chris Butler. Sideline officials: Brett Suttor and Phil Henderson. 

Televised: Fox Sports 2 – Live coverage from 6pm.

NRL.com predicts: The loss of Dugan further weakens a Dragons spine that was already missing Gareth Widdop in the halves. That means they're down to their third-choice goal-kicker which is far from ideal against a side that has one of the sharpest shooters in all of rugby league. Look for the Sharks to leapfrog their neighbours into second spot with a 10-point win.