Vodafone Warriors v St George Illawarra
FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Friday, May 19, 8.00pm, 6.00pm AEDT
Six days after suffering a spectacular second-half collapse against the Penrith Panthers, this Dragons side is almost certainly not the team the Vodafone Warriors want to be meeting while for St George Illawarra it's the chance to break a three-match losing streak.
The Dragons have an excellent record against this Friday's opponents, winning 80 per cent of the time in the 25 encounters.
Why the Vodafone Warriors can win: There weren't many positives in the end for the Vodafone Warriors against the Panthers but the way they played with the ball in the first 40 minutes is something they can build on. The Kiwi side scored five tries in the first stanza, despite having only 44 per cent of the ball in that time, with four line breaks to go with it. There were other good signs for Kearney's side in terms of their work on the ball, most notably five-eighth Kieran Foran's strong showing which included a try, a try assist and a 40/20.
Why the Dragons can win: St George Illawarra's forward pack is undoubtedly its major boast in 2017 while the Vodafone Warriors' pack has been an area of concern from the get-go. Despite the loss to the Sharks, the Dragons won the forward battle in convincing fashion last week, led by another huge effort from prop Paul Vaughan who had 188 metres on his own. Across the season St George Illawarra trails only the Brisbane Broncos in terms of the most metres gained, averaging 1650 per game, which is almost exactly 100 metres more than the Vodafone Warriors' 2017 average.
The history: Played 25, Vodafone Warriors 5, Dragons 20. Taking the field against the Vodafone Warriors and leaving the stadium with two points is almost a tradition for the Dragons, with St George Illawarra having lost to the Kiwi side just once in the last 13 meetings. The Vodafone Warriors and Dragons have met at FMG Stadium Waikato once before in a 2004 pre-season match, which the Dragons won 36-30.
What are the odds: The New Zealand TAB has the Vodafone Warriors as head-to-head favourites paying $1.47 with St George Illawarra at $2.55. The Dragons are the punters' pick according to Sportsbet in Australia with twice the dollars invested on them in the head-to-head market, and more than three times the number of individual bets. Dragons 1-12 is the most popular winning margin and Nene Macdonald is the best backed for first try scorer. Latest odds at www.tab.co.nz
Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Blake Ayshford, David Fusitu’a, Ken Maumalo; Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson; James Gavet, Issac Luke, Jacob Lillyman; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman; Bunty Afoa. Interchange: Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, Ligi Sao, Ben Matulino, Charlie Gubb, Mason Lino, Albert Vete, Tuimoala Lolohea.
St George Illawarra Dragons | Jason Nightingale; Nene Macdonald, Taane Milne, Tim Lafai, Kalifa Faifai Loa; Kurt Mann, Josh McCrone; Russell Packer, Cameron McInnes, Paul Vaughan; Tyson Frizell, Joel Thompson; Jack De Belin. Interchange: Tariq Sims, Leeson Ah Mau, Hame Sele, Jai Field, Matt Dufty, Siliva Havili, Luciano Leilua, Jacob Host.
Match officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant referee: Peter Gough. Sideline officials: Russell Turner and Chris McMillan. Review official: Luke Patten. Senior review official: Jared Maxwell.
Televised: SKY Sport - Live coverage on SS2 from 8.00pm. Fox Sports – Live coverage from 6.00pm (AEDT).
NRL.com predicts: The Red V have lost three straight but their level of play has been higher than the Vodafone Warriors' performances through that period and they will likely arrive in Hamilton the more confident side. The Kiwi outfit can be expected to show vast improvement on last week, but across the 80 the Dragons' pack should prove too much for the Vodafone Warriors to handle. Dragons by 10.
- This article first appeared on nrl.com