Match Preview: Round 23
By Nathan Beuman
The St George Illawarra Dragons will be eager to claim the two competition points when they face the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium, Canberra on Saturday.
While the Dragons enter the match as favourites, they know all too well that there is no tougher ground to play at this time of year as recent history would suggest.
With just one win from their past four starts, the two competition points are vital for the Dragons, as they look reignite their finals hopes.
The Raiders' form hasn’t been too crash hot recently either, winning just one game since Round 11, as the pressure continues to mount on both the players and coaching staff.
While the Raiders are out of playoff contention, the Green Machine will be desperate to pick up just their sixth win of the season, as they look to kick clear of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
The Dragons have made a number of changes to the line-up that went down 16-4 to the Penrith Panthers last round, with Head Coach Paul McGregor opting to rest fullback Adam Quinlan and giving Gerard Beale an opportunity at the back.
Peter Mata’utai has been rewarded for a solid outing for the Illawarra Cutters last weekend with a call-up into the first-grade, giving the talented youngster another opportunity to prove himself in the centres.
Meanwhile, prop Dan Hunt has been ruled out with a back injury, forcing a reshuffle in the forwards, meaning Jack De Belin has been shifted into the vacated spot with Trent Merrin shifting to lock.
Finally, utility Kyle Stanley and back rower Tyson Frizell have been added to a extended six-man bench, which will be whittled down to four in the lead up to kickoff.
Despite an 18-10 loss to the Parramatta Eels in Darwin last round, Raiders Head Coach Ricky Stuart has shown faith in the 17 that took the field, choosing to name an unchanged line-up.
The hosts have certainly had the Dragons number in recent times, winning nine straight against the Red-and-Whites, including three in Wollongong.
In the 13 meetings between The Dragons and Raiders at GIO Stadium, the visitors have only managed to come away with the goods twice.