By Nathan Beuman
The St George Illawarra Dragons will be keen to reclaim the Emergency Services Cup when they host the Melbourne Storm at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Monday (kick-off 7:00pm).
Having won two of their last three games, the Dragons have looked a lot more polished side under the tutelage of Head Coach Paul McGregor.
While the Melbourne Storm have been struggling with injuries in recent weeks, they are a team still boasting like likes of Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Ryan Hoffman, that can test any team on their day.
After getting off to a slow start to the season, the Storm themselves have put two straight wins together, as they prepare to run down the teams up the top of the competition table.
Paul McGregor has only made a couple of changes to the side that defeated the Gold Coast Titans 19-18 last Sunday afternoon, with Trent Merrin being monitored with an ankle injury.
Both Dan Hunt and Jack Stockwell have been named on an extended five-man bench, with a decision to be made later on in the week about the makeup of the final 17.
Meanwhile, Melbourne Storm Head Coach Craig Bellamy has named a 19-man squad for Monday nights game, with Bryan Norrie being promoted in to the started side ahead of Jordan McLean, who drops back to a six man bench.
Tohu Harris has also been forced back to the bench, with NSW Blues second rower Ryan Hoffman regaining his #12 jersey, while both Joel Romelo and Tim Glasby have been named at the end of the bench, with the full 19 man squad expected to travel to Wollongong later on this week.
Season to Date
The Dragons have really lifted over the last three weeks, winning two, and pushing the competition leading Penrith Panthers for the full 80 minutes in the other.
When McGregor took over at the end of May, St George Illawarra had one of the worst defensive records in the competition, however, over the last three weeks, the Red V has given up an average of only 12 points per game, including shutting out the Cronulla Sharks back in Round 13.
While Melbourne’s defensive stats show that they are having a pretty ordinary year to date, giving up an average of almost 23 points a game this season, they are still a side that many teams fear facing.
The Storms 46-20 drubbing of the Parramatta Eels at home last Sunday afternoon will have the Melbourne supporters licking their lips, hoping for a repeat performance from their men this Monday night in Wollongong.
Melbourne have well and truly dominated the rivalry in recent times, winning seven of their last ten meetings, including four of the last five, however, that won’t mean anything come Monday night.
The last time the two teams met was in round 6 of this year at AAMI Park, Melbourne when the Storm defeated St George Illawarra 28-24 off the back of a two try performance from Will Chambers.
The last meeting in Wollongong was a completely different story however, with the Dragons pulling off a 26-18 win over the Storm in round 21 of 2012.