The St George Illawarra Dragons will be looking to put a halt on their two game losing streak when they head south to take on a Melbourne Storm outfit at AAMI Park, Melbourne on Monday.
The two competition points won’t be the only thing up for grabs with both sides vying for the Emergency Services Cup, an initiative thought up by both clubs in 2008 with the help of the NSW and Victorian governments to recognise the work of the emergency services in both states.
St George Illawarra Head Coach Steve Price has made a couple of changes to the line-up that went down to the South Sydney Rabbitohs last round, with Michael Witt coming in to replace Adam Quinlan at halfback, who has been dropped onto an extended 19-man bench.
It’s a case of the old switcheroo in the Jack department, with Jack Stockwell taking his place in the starting lineup in the number eight jersey, following the one-week suspension of Jack de Belin for a dangerous throw.
Suspension has also caused Storm coach Craig Bellamy to make a change, with Tim Glasby coming onto the bench to replace Dayne Weston, who also received a one game suspension for a crusher tackle on David Mead.
Attack will certainly be one of the main focuses of Steve Price throughout training this week, with the Dragons only managing six points against Souths in their Heritage Round clash last weekend at the SCG.
A lack of discipline also hurt St George Illawarra, with the Big Red V conceding 11 penalties against the Rabbitohs, two more than they conceded in the previous fortnight combined.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Melbourne either, having let in 68 points over the last two weekends, as they look to get back in the winners column for the first time since round 3.
While defence may be a major reason to their mini form slump, coach Craig Bellamy can’t fault his sides ball handling, having made only 45 errors so far in 2014, second fewest in the league.
The Dragons have struggled against the Storm since entering the competition in 1999, with Melbourne having won 19 of their 27 meetings.
St George Illawarra have collected the points on seven occasions, with one meeting ending in a draw.
The recent form has been much the same, with the Storm winning four of their last five meetings, and the Dragons never having won at AAMI Park.
Melbourne are the current holders the Emergency Services Cup following a 30-10 win over St George Illawarra in the opening round of the competition last season.
Mitch Rein v Cameron Smith (c)
If Mitch Rein didn’t know about the Storms 71 missed tackles over the last fortnight, he does now. The crafty #9 will surely test Melbourne’s big men, who have shown to tire late in games the last couple of weeks.
Rein has been a tackling machine so far this season, picking up at least 40 tackles in four of the Dragons five games thus far.
He will have his work cut out for him however, going up against Queensland and Australian hooker Cameron Smith, who despite missing Melbourne’s Round 4 clash with the Canterbury Bulldogs, has been at his consistent best in 2014.
Smith had a game high 46 tackles in a losing effort last week, while keeping his side in the game with a perfect 5/5 with the boot.
Ben Creagh (c) v Ryan Hoffman
Captain Creagh has shown just what a prolific try scorer he can be thus far in 2014, scoring a try in the Dragons opening two games of the season, one fewer then he scored all of last year.
When he’s not scoring four pointers, he’s chewing up the metres, already clocking up three 100+ metres games to go along with his 134 tackles.
Ryan Hoffman is no slouch with the ball in hand either, picking up 140 metres in a losing effort last Sunday against the Gold Coast Titans.
Unfortunately though for the former New South Wales and Australian representative, he is unable to lay claim to a scoring a try this year.
Josh Dugan v Billy Slater
While Dugan will be desperate to cut out the four errors he made in his return from a knee injury last weekend, he will be happy with his 119 running metres.
Meanwhile, his opposing #1 Billy Slater hasn’t been the Slater of old, only managing to amass one try and one line break in five starts this season, well down on his career averages.
Having said this, his 163 metre performance against Canterbury-Bankstown a fortnight ago will surely have the Dragons defence on their toes.
Date: Monday, April 14 2014
Venue: AAMI Park
Gates Open: 4:30pm
Televised: Live on Fox Sports from 7pm