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Bulldogs v Dragons: Dogs lose Foran, Red V Origin stars to play

They have opposite records and sit at different ends of the NRL ladder, but clashes between the Bulldogs and Dragons are usually fiery affairs regardless of how they are progressing through the season.

The Doggies are virtually out of finals contention with a 3-9 record, while the Dragons are in much better shape at 9-3. Both teams are last-start losers, with Canterbury going down to the Tigers in yet another game they were winning and the Dragons walloped 28-2 by the Panthers.

It's a nothing-to-lose game for the Dogs but it's nothing of the sort for their opponents, who have shown signs of slippage over the past few weeks. Add that to the fact they have four players backing up from Origin duty and the Dragons are definitely vulnerable against a side that traditionally has given them a hard time.

Strange as it may seem, this Monday night encounter could go either way.

Key match-up: Snubbed for the Origin series opener, Bulldogs prop Aaron Woods might be a bit more fired up than usual against Paul Vaughan – the man who effectively took his spot in the NSW side. Woods almost certainly won't be with the Dogs next year (possibly not even all of this season) and should make every post a winner in what little time he has left with the club.

For the Bulldogs to win: Woods, fellow prop Dave Klemmer and hard-nosed back-rower Josh Jackson have to set an aggressive tone and demand that their younger teammates follow their lead. But more than anything, the Bulldogs must stop squandering handy scoring opportunities and start putting some tries on the board.

For the Dragons to win: The Dragons have looked a little tired in recent weeks and need to re-focus on the processes that earned them eight wins in their first 10 games.

Bulldogs stat attack: The Bulldogs will have a big task on their hands in round 14 coming up against the high-flying Dragons. At this stage the only thing the Dogs have over the Red V is their record of winning 11 of their last 12 games against them.

Dragons stat attack: Ben Hunt debuted in round 15 for the Broncos in the 2009 season. With a five-day turnaround from Origin, the halfback is set to play his 200th first-grade game.

And another thing: There's probably people around the Wollongong suburb of Dapto who remember a footballing larrikin nicknamed 'Mary' who liked a beer and a laugh with his mates. They probably thought he'd never make it in the big time, but Paul 'Mary' McGregor brings up his 100th game as coach on Monday and has proven himself as a fine leader of men.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v St George Illawarra Dragons, Monday 4pm at ANZ Stadium

Bulldogs: 1 Moses Mbye, 2 Brett Morris, 3 John Olive, 4 Will Hopoate, 5 Marcelo Montoya, 6 Jeremy Marshall-King, 7 Matt Frawley, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Michael Lichaa, 16 Renouf Toomaga, 11 Josh Jackson (c), 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13 Adam Elliott

Interchange: 10 David Klemmer, 15 Kerrod Holland, 17 Aiden Tolman, 20 Clay Priest

In a change an hour before kick-off, Renouf Toomaga has been moved into the starting side, with David Klemmer dropping back to the bench. Rhyse Martin - who played Intrust Super Premiership on Saturday - and Reimis Smith were the two players left out an hour before game time. Kieran Foran (toe ligament injury) is out, with Michael Lichaa recalled at hooker and Jeremy Marshall-King moving to five-eighth. David Klemmer has been named to back up from Origin and start at prop which pushes Adam Elliott to lock and Rhyse Martin to the bench. Aiden Tolman (ankle) returns from injury on the bench in place of Clay Priest. Lachlan Lewis and Greg Eastwood were omitted 24 hours before kick-off.

Dragons: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 15 Kurt Mann, 6 Gareth Widdop (c), 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack De Belin

Interchange: 5 Jason Nightingale, 14 Jeremy Latimore, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 19 Jacob Host

In a late change to the Dragons run-on side, Kurt Mann has been named to start on the wing, with Jason Nightingale dropping back to the bench. Blake Lawrie, Patrick Herbert and Hame Sele were the last men dropped from the squad. The Dragons have named an unchanged team from the one that lost to Penrith in round 12, with Ben Hunt, Tyson Frizell, Jack De Belin and Paul Vaughan to back up from Origin. Reece Robson, Luciano Leilua and Darren Nicholls were omitted from the extended bench on Sunday.

Head-to-head: Played 34; Bulldogs 23 wins, Dragons 11 wins
Matches at venue: Played 19; Bulldogs 13 wins, Dragons 6 wins
2017 result: Bulldogs won 16-2 at ANZ Stadium in round 14; Bulldogs won 26-20 at ANZ Stadium in round 26
Points per game: Bulldogs 15.3;Dragons 25.1
Points conceded per game: Bulldogs 19.8; Dragons 16
Televised: Live on Fox League

Steve Turner's prediction: The Dragons will be hoping all their Origin players come through injury free because they have been an enormous part of their early season success. It's going to be a testing period for Paul McGregor's men who have set the bar so high to date. The Bulldogs have won 11 of their past 12 matches against the Dragons and that's good enough for to suggest they will  make it win number 12. 

Tip: Bulldogs by 6

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