Dragons v Sea Eagles preview - 2017 Round 20
Dragons look to protect spot in the Top Eight against soaring Sea Eagles
The Dragons will come into Sunday afternoon's game desperate for a victory after suffering a devastating 18-14 Golden Point loss to the Raiders last week. The loss now sees Paul McGregor's sides position in the eight threatened by the rejuvenated Panthers, who only trail the Dragons by two competition points. Of particular concern for McGregor is his side's spluttering attack, which was highly impressive at the start of the season. Unfortunately, in their past ten clashes, the Dragons have only scored more than 16 points on three occasions. The explosive power of their underrated forward pack seems to have been neglected and instead the Dragons have attempted to go around teams rather than sticking with what worked. If St. George are to emerge victorious on Sunday, they will need their forward pack to dominate once more seeing that Manly's big men have been key to their current success. Their chances have been boosted by the return of Tyson Frizell from a rib injury while Euan Aitken also takes his place at right centre.
Despite the losses of forward Curtis Sironen and Lewis Brown, the Sea Eagles have continued their surge towards the finals, overcoming a shaky start last week to down the Tigers 28-16. The two points are just as critical this week for the Sea Eagles as they attempt to consolidate their position within the Top Four. Their chances of claiming an important win, however, have been dealt a blow with the improving Apisai Koroisau and goal-kicking winger Matt Wright both ruled out with injury. Brad Parker replaces Wright on the wing whilst Cameron Cullen is given the chance to impress in Parker's place.
The Dragons' attacking brilliance was on full display as they disposed of Manly 35-10 at Lottoland in Round 6 this year.
Who to watch: Paul Vaughan needs to lead from the front once more if he is to inspire his side to overcome Manly on Sunday afternoon. Vaughan was strong returning from injury last week, running for 208 metres and making 31 tackles in a typical workhorse performance. Against a strong Manly pack, the Dragons will need to aim up and Vaughan in particular has the ability to break this one open.
Tom Trbojevic has been excellent after returning from injury and he played a key role in Manly's comeback victory against the Tigers last week. Trbojevic starred, setting up two tries, making two line breaks and running 217 metres in a powerful performance. Whilst the current focus is on halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, Trbojevic also needs to fire in Manly are to maintain their Top Four spot.
5. Jason Nightingale 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 17. Kurt Mann 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Josh McCrone 8. Leeson Ah Mau 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jack de Belin 14. Tariq Sims 15. Jacob Host 16. Blake Lawrie 18. Matthew Dufty 19. Taane Milne 20. Russell Packer
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Brad Parker 3. Dylan Walker 4. Brian Kelly 5. Akuila Uate 6. Blake Green 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 15. Lloyd Perrett 9. Cameron Cullen 10. Martin Taupau 11. Frank Winterstein 12. Shaun Lane 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Jackson Hastings 16. Darcy Lussick 17. Addin Fonua-blake 18. Jarrad Kennedy 19. Joey Lussick 21. Jonathan Wright