Wests Tigers' late charge towards September footy is certainly gathering plenty of momentum after a thrilling last-start win over the Canberra Raiders in Round 22.
The fourth victory for Wests Tigers in their past five games sees them close the gap further on the eighth-placed Brisbane Broncos, but a win for Wayne Bennett's side on Thursday night against the South Sydney Rabbitohs ensured that the pressure remained firmly on Wests Tigers to win and keep their season alive.
With a good run of form on their side and upcoming home matches at the club's two suburban grounds, Ivan Cleary's side will be certainly aware of the opportunity that sits in front of them to potentially sneak in to the top eight and secure semi-finals football for the joint-venture for the first time since 2011.
To do that, they'll need to keep winning, however, and Saturday's game against the St. George-Illawarra Dragons presents an intriguing task given the decline in form from the Red V in recent weeks.
Since the Origin period, the Dragons have won just one game (against the struggling Cowboys) and are coming off the back of a 40-4 drubbing at the hands of the wooden spoon favourites in Parramatta. Without key players in Gareth Widdop and Paul Vaughan for the next few weeks, it's certainly a tough ask for Paul McGregor's side to find their confidence once again but there's still more than enough representative talent within the squad for them to be a formidable force — not only this weekend but also in the finals series.
Mbye try named top play from Round 22
While the Red V might be without two of their biggest names for Saturday's game, Wests Tigers will welcome back two of their own with Chris Lawrence (hand/hamstring) and Mahe Fonua (arm) returning.
Their inclusion will offer an extra attacking element to a side that hasn't scored a plethora of points this year, while further solidifying a defensive unit that continues to show remarkable resilience under pressure.
With Brisbane already recording a victory on Thursday night, Wests Tigers know exactly what their clash against the Dragons holds — anything other than a victory will essentially end their finals chances.
As a result, it's shaping as one of the biggest games we've seen at Leichhardt Oval in recent years and certainly not one to be missed, with a sellout crowd expected to roll through the gates this weekend.
Wests Tigers have already beaten the Dragons once this season, and will head in to the game as favourites following the contrasting form lines between the two sides in recent weeks. How they go handling that tag, and the expectations on them to continue their late surge to September, will no doubt be key on Saturday.
NRL.com preview Dragons clash
Date — Saturday, August 18, 2018
Time — 5:30pm AEST
Venue — Leichhardt Oval (Lilyfield, NSW)
TV, RADIO AND LIVE STREAM INFORMATION
TV — Live via FOX League (Ch.502)
Radio — AM 702 ABC Grandstand, AM 2GB 873
Live Stream — Foxtel Go, NRL Digital Pass, Watch NRL Streaming (exc. Australia)
LATEST BETEASY ODDS
H2H — Wests Tigers ($1.74), St. George-Illawarra Dragons ($2.10)
Line — Wests Tigers -2 ($1.92), St. George-Illawarra Dragons +2 ($1.92)
Match: Wests Tigers v Dragons
Round 23 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
Fullback for Wests Tigers is number 1 Moses MbyeFullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew Dufty
Winger for Wests Tigers is number 2 David NofoalumaWinger for Dragons is number 2 Nene Macdonald
Centre for Wests Tigers is number 3 Esan MarstersCentre for Dragons is number 3 Euan Aitken
Centre for Wests Tigers is number 4 Mahe FonuaCentre for Dragons is number 4 Timoteo Lafai
Winger for Wests Tigers is number 5 Kevin NaiqamaWinger for Dragons is number 5 Jordan Pereira
Five-Eighth for Wests Tigers is number 6 Benji MarshallFive-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Kurt Mann
Halfback for Wests Tigers is number 7 Luke BrooksHalfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben Hunt
Prop for Wests Tigers is number 8 Russell PackerProp for Dragons is number 8 James Graham
Hooker for Wests Tigers is number 9 Robbie FarahHooker for Dragons is number 9 Cameron McInnes
Prop for Wests Tigers is number 10 Ben MatulinoProp for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell
2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 12 Michael Chee-Kam2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims
2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 17 Matthew Eisenhuth2nd Row for Dragons is number 17 Luciano Leilua
Lock for Wests Tigers is number 13 Elijah TaylorLock for Dragons is number 13 Jack de Belin
Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 11 Chris LawrenceInterchange for Dragons is number 10 Leeson Ah Mau
Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 15 Sauaso SueInterchange for Dragons is number 14 Jeremy Latimore
Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 16 Luke GarnerInterchange for Dragons is number 16 Blake Lawrie
Interchange for Wests Tigers is number 18 Jacob LiddleInterchange for Dragons is number 19 Jai Field
- Referee: Grant Atkins
- Referee: Matt Noyen
- Touch Judge: Nick Beashel
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Video Referee: Luke Patten
- Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein
Mahe Fonua and Chris Lawrence are both confirmed to return from injury, with Luke Garner dropping back to the bench. Jacob Liddle and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak have been retained as reserves.
For the Dragons, Gareth Widdop's (shoulder) omission sees Kurt Mann move to five-eighth, while Jacob Host joins the bench. Talented youngsters Jai Field and Zac Lomax have been named as reserves.
Overall — Played 36, Wests Tigers 16, St. George-Illawarra Dragons 19, Drawn 1
At Leichhardt Oval — Played 1, Wests Tigers 0, St. George-Illawarra Dragons 1
Last Time They Met — Wests Tigers 20 def. St. George-Illawarra Dragons 16 (Rd.18, 2018)
Match Referees — Grant Atkins and Matt Noyen
Touch Judges — Nick Beashel and David Munro
Review Officials — Luke Patten and Ashley Klein