Dragons v Warriors: Mary keeps faith; Warriors lose Harris
A huge game for both teams after last week's thrashings. The Dragons need to prove they didn't peak too early in the season, while the Warriors are under pressure to hold on to eighth spot.
It wasn't like the Dragons were bad last week, but they couldn't stay with a Roosters side that appears to be peaking at the right end of the season.
They remained in the top four and this game is crucial if they want to stay there, with the Sharks, Panthers and Broncos only one win behind.
The Warriors handled the Titans in the first half before capitulating in the second half. It could prove to be very costly in the final wash-up if the Tigers bounce back from an upset loss to the Bulldogs and finish the season strongly.
Match: Dragons v Warriors
Round 21 -
Venue: WIN Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Key match-up: There are some good head-to-head clashes all over the paddock but the main battle will be between halves Ben Hunt and Shaun Johnson. Both need to put their stamp on the game early and also take charge if it's close down the stretch. The Dragons ooze confidence when Hunt is firing. Ditto for Johnson and the Warriors.
For the Dragons to win: The heavy loss to the Roosters shouldn't send everyone into panic mode at the Dragons, but it certainly highlighted areas they need to improve if they are going to win the premiership. They need their forwards to dish up a damaging performance - the kind they routinely delivered in the first half of the season - and keep the visitors on the back foot.
For the Warriors to win: They can't afford to play half a game like they did last week. The Warriors need Johnson and Blake Green to confidently direct traffic in attack, while their hot and cold forward pack needs to meet the Dragons head-on in the middle.
Dragons Stat Attack: St George Illawarra are the NRL's most prolific point-scoring team - but only just. In one of the closest battles in years, the Dragons have racked up 459 points, followed by the Raiders (458), Rabbitohs (457) and Storm (456).
Warriors Stat Attack: The Warriors lead the NRL in offloads 245, with the Dragons (243) the next best. The Warriors also have more 40/20 kicks (4) than any other team. Johnson leads the NRL in field goals (4).
And another thing: Isaac Luke would've been playing his 250th NRL game if he hadn't missed last week's clash with the Titans. His experience and toughness were sorely missed by the Warriors when their world was spinning out of control in the second half. The man nicknamed 'Bully' is expected to return this week for his 249th game and will be looking forward to making life difficult for the Dragons.
Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew DuftyFullback for Warriors is number 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Winger for Dragons is number 2 Jordan PereiraWinger for Warriors is number 2 David Fusitu'a
Centre for Dragons is number 3 Euan AitkenCentre for Warriors is number 3 Gerard Beale
Centre for Dragons is number 4 Timoteo LafaiCentre for Warriors is number 4 Solomone Kata
Winger for Dragons is number 5 Jason NightingaleWinger for Warriors is number 5 Ken Maumalo
Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Gareth WiddopFive-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Blake Green
Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben HuntHalfback for Warriors is number 7 Shaun Johnson
Prop for Dragons is number 8 James GrahamProp for Warriors is number 8 James Gavet
Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Cameron McInnesHooker for Warriors is number 9 Issac Luke
Prop for Dragons is number 10 Paul VaughanProp for Warriors is number 10 Agnatius Paasi
2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Isaiah Papali'i
2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims2nd Row for Warriors is number 15 Simon Mannering
Lock for Dragons is number 13 Jack de BelinLock for Warriors is number 13 Adam Blair
Interchange for Dragons is number 14 Jeremy LatimoreInterchange for Warriors is number 14 Jazz Tevaga
Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Kurt MannInterchange for Warriors is number 16 Leivaha Pulu
Interchange for Dragons is number 16 Leeson Ah MauInterchange for Warriors is number 17 Bunty Afoa
Interchange for Dragons is number 17 Luciano LeiluaInterchange for Warriors is number 21 Sam Lisone
Dragons: The Dragons are unchanged from last week's loss to the Roosters and would effectively be at full strength if Nene Macdonald was playing. Zac Lomax and Blake Lawrie were the last players cut from the reserves an hour before kick-off.
Warriors: Hooker Isaac Luke (calf) and lock Adam Blair (suspension) return to the starting 13, but Tohu Harris has had to delay his comeback by at least another week after suffering a new knee injury. Veteran back-rower Simon Mannering has been given the nod to start in place of Harris, while Sam Lisone is the new face on the bench. Peta Hiku and Joseph Vuna were omitted an hour out from kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 27 wins, Dragons 21 wins, Warriors 6 wins
Previous result: Warriors won 20-12 at Mt Smart Stadium in round 7
Points per game: Dragons 24.2; Warriors 18.5
Points conceded per game: Dragons 18.5; Warriors 19.6
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Petero Civoniceva's prediction: I'll go with the Dragons on this one. The Warriors were very disappointing against the Titans and it almost feels like the wheels have fallen off. After a great win against the Broncos they haven't been able to continue on from that. The Dragons would be disappointed they didn't match it with a red-hot Roosters, but now they understand the kind of football they need to be playing if they're going to have any real chance at the premiership. I expect them to bounce back in a big way.
Tip: Dragons by 12