Off the back of four consecutive losses, Wests Tigers will set their sights on the St. George-Illawarra Dragons as they look to keep their top eight hopes alive.
Fresh from a week off with the bye in Round 17, Ivan Cleary's side will be desperate to end their recent losing streak against a Dragons side themselves in an interesting position — albeit at the other spectrum of the ladder to Wests Tigers. Paul McGregor's side surrendered top spot with a last start loss to Melbourne, and have been far from convincing in their past month of football with just one genuinely dominant win.
There's no doubting the fact that the Red V are the real deal this season, but with a trip to Townsville and games against the Roosters and Warriors following Sunday's clash against Wests Tigers, McGregor's men will know that their hard work from the start of the year won't be enough to guarantee them a top four spot.
With a perfect 9-0 record at home this season, the Dragons will have every reason to be confident at UOW Jubilee Oval — a venue Wests Tigers have not won at since that memorable 2005 season — but while Cleary's side have struggled to find wins in the past month, this isn't a team that should be counted out.
The return of Benji Marshall will no doubt bring out the best of Luke Brooks in his 100th NRL game, while Robbie Farah and Moses Mbye both looked impressive in their first games for the club last week.
Wests Tigers will also welcome back two key additions in David Nofoaluma and Ben Matulino, while the Dragons will be hoping for all five of their State of Origin players to back up from Wednesday's Game III. Interestingly, in the one game that the Dragons players have had to back up this year, they barely managed to scrape past the hapless Parramatta Eels, so it'll be worthwhile keeping an eye on late mail in that regard.
The equal-best attacking team in the competition this year with 401 points scored, the Dragons will look to control Sunday's game through Gareth Widdop's kicking game and the key for Wests Tigers will no doubt be how they remain disciplined under pressure. Cleary's side were the better team for 60 minutes against the Gold Coast Titans, but coughed up the lead (and the two points) off the back of 18 errors in the game.
Against a Dragons side that leads the competition in possession, that definitely needs to improve if they are to keep their finals hopes alive and spring an upset — something they've shown they can do in 2018.
Date — Sunday, July 15, 2018
Time — 4:10pm AEST
Venue — UOW Jubilee Oval (Kogarah)
TV, RADIO AND LIVE STREAM INFORMATION
TV — Live via FOX League (Ch.502) and Channel 9
Radio — AM 702 ABC Grandstand, FM 104.9 Triple M Sydney
Live Stream — 9Now, Foxtel Go, NRL Digital Pass, Watch NRL Streaming (exc. Australia)
LATEST CROWNBET ODDS
H2H — St. George-Illawarra Dragons ($1.37), Wests Tigers ($3.15)
Line — St. George-Illawarra Dragons -8 ($1.92), Wests Tigers +8 ($1.92)
LATEST TEAM NEWS
Both sides confirmed no late changes of yet 24 hours before kickoff, with the Dragons expecting all five of their State of Origin players to back up for the game. David Nofoaluma (calf), Benji Marshall (calf) and Ben Matulino (knee) all got through captain's run and are expected to play on Sunday.
WESTS TIGERS — 1. Moses Mbye 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Corey Thompson 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 9. Robbie Farah 10. Ben Matulino 11. Chris Lawrence 12. Josh Aloiai 13. Elijah Taylor (Interchange: 14. Alex Twal 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Matt Eisenhuth 19. Luke Garner 21. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak) — Coach: Ivan Cleary
DRAGONS — 1. Matt Dufty 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jack de Belin (Interchange: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Kurt Mann 16. Leeson Ah Mau 17. Luciano Leilua 18. Patrick Herbert 19. Hame Sele 22. Jai Field) — Coach: Paul McGregor
- Overall — Played 36, Dragons 19, Wests Tigers 15, Drawn 2
- At UOW Jubilee Oval — Played 6, Dragons 5, Wests Tigers 1
- Last Time They Met — St. George-Illawarra Dragons 16 def. Wests Tigers 12 (Rd.13, 2017)
2018 SEASON SO FAR
|ST. GEORGE-ILLAWARRA||WESTS TIGERS|
|Position||2nd (26 points)||10th (16 points)|
|Points For||401 points (1st)||242 points (15th)|
|Points Against||286 points (6th)||295 points (7th)|
|Home Form||Won 9, Lost 0||Won 5, Lost 4|
|Away Form||Won 3, Lost 4||Won 2, Lost 5|
|Last Five Games||Won 3, Lost 1, Bye 1||Won 0, Lost 4, Bye 1|
Match Referees — Ben Cummins and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
Touch Judges — Belinda Sleeman and Nick Beashel
Review Officials — Luke Patten and Jared Maxwell
Kimmorley, Toovey preview Dragons clash