Preview: Round 9 v New Zealand Warriors
The St George Illawarra Dragons will travel to face the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland on Sunday (kick-off 2.00pm).
The Dragons will travel across the Tasman Sea in search of their third successive win to end a gruelling stretch of road games which has seen them play four of their last five games away.
The Dragons come off a nail biting 20-18 win over the Sydney Roosters last Monday, thanks largely to a superb first half which saw them take an 18-0 lead into the sheds.
While Head Coach Paul McGregor will be disappointed with his side’s second-half, he will be pleased with the only four penalties and 80% completion rate.
McGregor has named an 18-man squad for the fixture and welcomes back Euan Aitken, who has been named in the centres after overcoming a hamstring strain.
New Zealand Warriors
The New Zealand Warriors have been at their inconstant best over the last couple of weeks.
They recorded a strong 24-20 win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 24-20 two rounds ago only to go down 42-0 to the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on ANZAC Day.
The loss of fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for the remainder of the season has left a major hole in their attack.
Statistics show that the team had almost 600 metres difference in metres gained against the Storm, as well as their one line break to the latter’s ten.
While the Warriors may be low on confidence at the moment, they still possess one of the best attacking players in the game in halfback Shaun Johnson.
The 2014 Golden Boot winner currently sits fifth on the NRL top points scorers’ table.
However, reports suggest Head Coach Andrew McFadden will swing the axe with up to six players from his initial 18-man squad named to be dropped to the NSW Cup.
While not confirmed, these named include Bodene Thompson, Albert Vete, Sam Lisone, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei and Ben Matulino.
1. David Fusitua
2. Jonathan Wright
3. Blake Ayshford
4. Solomone Kata
5. Manu Vatuvei
6. Thomas Leuluai
7. Shaun Johnson
8. Jacob Lillyman
9. Issac Luke
10. Ben Matulino
11. Bodene Thompson
12. Ryan Hoffman
13. Charlie Gubb.
14. Jazz Tevaga
15. Sam Lisone
16. Albert Vete
17. Shaun Lane
18. James Gavet
Dragons centre Euan Aitken, has quite possibly the hardest job on the field when he confronts opposite number Solomone Kata.
Kata has been one of the Warriors most consistent players in this season, scoring seven tries (fourth most in the competition), while only committing five errors in his eight games.
While Aitken may not show up on the try scorers sheet as often as his opposite number, the 20-year-old has been rock solid in defence this year, averaging just 1.1 missed tackles per game, while only making six errors in his seven appearances to date.
The Dragons have dominated the Warriors in recent season, winning 19 of their past 23 clashes, including a 36-0 victory at Westpac Stadium, Wellington in Round 22 last year.
Mt Smart Stadium has also been kind to the Dragons, with the Red V coming away with the points on six of nine attempts.