Match Preview: Round 20
By Nathan Beuman
The St George Illawarra Dragons will be keen to return to winning ways against Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park on Sunday.
In what is expected to be a mouth watering clash between two sides desperate to claw their was back into the top eight, it will be the first time Benji Marshall will play against the club he spent more than ten years with, after he was released from the final two years of his contract at the end of last year to play rugby union in New Zealand.
The Tigers will head into this game with a lot of confidence after emphatically beating the highly ranked Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 46-18 at the same venue last Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Dragons will hope to put in a better showing than they did last Monday night against the competition leaders the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, going down 21-12 at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah.
A win on Sunday afternoon would see them leap frog the Tigers and once again sit right on the cusp of the top eight.
St George Illawarra Dragons Head Coach Paul McGregor has named a largely unchanged team to the one that took the field against the Sea Eagles, with Charly Runciman and Shane Pumipi both being included on an extended six-man bench.
The story is much the same for the Tigers, with head Coach Mick Potter selecting an almost identical side to the one that played the Bulldogs, with Dene Halatau being the only change, being named in the #17 jersey after he was ruled out last week with concussion.
Suauso Sue will be the 18th man.
Prior to Monday night’s loss to the Sea Eagles, the Dragons were in red hot form, winning four of their previous five games, and proving many of the critics wrong who had already written them off for 2014.
Ball handling was a large reason for St George Illawarra’s poor showing against Manly-Warringah, failing to complete on 11 of their 39 sets
The Tigers were able to turn around a recent form slump with that big win last Sunday against the Bulldogs, where they scored nine more points than they did in their previous three games combined.
St George Illawarra and the Tigers met in the opening round of the season with the Dragons running out big winners 44-24 at ANZ Stadium.
The two sides have been unable to be separated in their last six matchups, with both teams going win for win over the stretch.
The overall history is much the same, with the Dragons winning 15 of the 28 meetings between the two teams since the Tigers entered the competition in 2000.
ANZ Stadium has played host to the rivalry on eight occasions, with both sides winning four a piece.