2014 NRL season, round 19
Match preview coming soon
With both sides languishing in the lower regions of the NRL ladder a local derby may just be the spark that St George Illawarra Dragons and Cronulla Sharks need to ignite their season. Although the quality of football from both sides has been questionable lately, they did put on one of the games of the season earlier in the year and a repeat this time around will bring cheer to their long suffering fans.
Despite an uninspiring display on Monday against Souths it appears as though the Dragons will go into this weekend’s game with little or no changes to their squad. Paul McGregor will instead hope that the very public criticisms coming the way of the likes of Benji Marshall will stir a response from his underperforming group.
While Marshall came up with an unacceptable amount of errors on Monday, he was at least putting in the effort that meant those errors got noticed. Another hard working display on Saturday will bat least be another step in the right direction for the star recruit.
For Cronulla 2014 has been a case of a few injuries too far. Paul Gallen, Todd Carney, Jeff Robson and Beau Ryan are among those to spend significant chunks of the season on the sidelines – the latter forced into premature retirement this week due to the seriousness of his neck injury. Peter Sharp has done his weekly juggling act with what payers he does have available and, along with a couple of potential debutants, he is able to call upon Nathan Gardner for the first time in 2014.
Saturday 7th June, WIN Stadium Wollongong 19:30
St George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla Sharks
Round 12 of the 2014 NRL season concludes on Monday with a clash between historic rivals South Sydney Rabbitohs and St George Illawarra Dragons. Monday night’s clinical victory over an under strength Cronulla demonstrated that the Rabbitohs are a much improved side from the start of the season. However, they will know better than to underestimate their opponents after losing in golden point extra time in the corresponding game last season.
Souths are one of the only sides with Origin players who all appeared to come through game one unscathed. All three who played for Queensland on Wednesday come straight back into the squad, while Nathan Merritt didn’t do enough against the Sharks to retain his place this week.
Paul McGregor will take charge of the Dragons for the first time since the sacking of Steve Price. McGregor will not have had a great deal of time to work with the players as he was on duty with New South Wales when Price was let go last Monday.
The Dragons will be looking for a better display from Benji Marshall as the new recruit has had a couple of weeks to settle in at his new club. In Marshall’s first appearance they had a lot of possession in attacking situations but couldn’t pull off any point scoring plays.
Dragons fans will be hoping to see a vast improvement on that 36-0 loss to the Eels. Their forwards have been heavily criticised in recent weeks, and will have to step up a gear against a pack that is considered one of the best in the competition.
Monday 2nd June, ANZ Stadium Homebush
Parramatta Eels host St George Illawarra Dragons on Saturday afternoon with the sides coming into the game on the back of contrasting fortunes. The Eels picked up a third win in five games last weekend, while the Dragons slumped to fifth defeat in six.
It is still not clear if Benji Marshall will make his debut for the Dragons. He was not named in the squad earlier in the week but that is subject to change until shortly before kick-off. Last week we described how three wins to open the 2014 season seemed like a distant memory for the Dragons. Now it is hard to make any kind of connection between the team then and now. They do at least get Jason Nightingale back from injury this week should Marshall not be included.
Conceding 36 points to the Bulldogs last weekend was disappointing for the Dragons, but was made worse by their inability to score more than once themselves. It looks as though they need the spark of energy that even just the presence of Marshall can bring to breathe life into their season.
There were no such attacking problems for the Eels in their thrashing of Cronulla on Monday night. Jarryd Hayne and Chris Sandow in particular are looking sharp in 2014. Sandow is a changed man on and off the field this year, and with a team working well around him some of his courageous plays are beginning to pay off.
Such has been the form of young players given a chance this season by Brad Arthur, established regulars like Fuifui Moimoi are currently restricted to appearances in the NSW Cup. The Eels are also turning Pirtek Stadium into something of a fortress having yet to be defeated on home turf in 2014.
Saturday 17th May, Pirtek Stadium Parramatta 15:00
2014 NRL season, round 9