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Tigers look to silence Bulldogs newfound bite
After stunning the Cowboys in North Queensland, the Tigers conjured a flawed performance against the Eels on Easter Monday. Not without moments of flair in their 26-22 loss, the joint venture will be looking for a more consistent showing against the Bulldogs, while ensuring they take advantage of their hard word having established a 12-point lead only to let their opponents back into the contest. In response to the narrow loss, coach Ivan Cleary has been forced to tinker with his backline after Jamal Idris sustained a hamstring injury in the dying stages of last week. As a result, Michael Chee Kam is elevated from bench allowing Joel Edwards to come into the side to play his 100th game. Recently re-signed playmaker Luke Brooks has been named as part of the extended squad; should the halfback face the Bulldogs on Sunday expect Jack Littlejohn to drop out of the side.
Putting together three wins in a row, the Bulldogs are well and truly back on track after putting their early season jitters to the side. Playing with enthusiasm and patience in their win over South Sydney on Good Friday, coach Des Hasler will be looking to continue his side's perfect record at ANZ Stadium this season against a Tigers outfit still finding their feet. In the only change from the team that triumphed 24-9 last week, representative forward David Klemmer returns at lock, forcing Adam Elliot back to the bench. Impressive youngster Matt Frawley has once again been named in jersey #20, but having played an instrumental role in the sides turnaround, expect the playmaker to come into the final side. Holding an imposing record over the Tigers in recent seasons with nine wins from eleven meetings, the Blue and Whites will come into the match as favourites, but having seen their opponents account for a highly fancied Cowboys side a fortnight ago, captain James Graham will be reinforcing the need for his players to remain focused on the job at hand.
Last meeting: Round 18 2016 - Bulldogs 32 Wests Tigers 22
Who to watch: He may not be playing as many minutes under Ivan Cleary, but instead Sauaso Sue has shown that quality over quantity makes the real impact. Having started the season in the second row, the 24-year-old Samoan international has reverted back to his role as an impact prop to the benefit of the side. Barging over for a try against the Eels, the man colloquially known as Jesse will be eyeing off a personal confrontation with Sam Kasiano in what may prove to be a decisive aspect in determining the winner of Sunday's fixture. Set to surpass the century milestone this season, Sue is set to enter the prime years of his career in the NRL and with his future locked down until the end of 2018, look for the unsung forward to step up.
Having stammered along with just one win during the opening month, there can be little doubt over the impact brought to the Bulldogs side by Matt Frawley. Playing a leading role in three wins from as many appearances, the 22-year-old has brought an attacking freshness to a Canterbury side that had become predictable with a brand of football overly reliant on forwards. Allowing regular halfback Moses Mbye the opportunity to direct play from dummy half, Frawley has been the beneficiary of an improved work ethic from the Bulldogs forwards, while bringing out the best in halves partner Josh Reynolds as well. On contract until the end of 2018, look for Frawley to press his claims for a starting position with another strong performance on Sunday.
The favourite: Showing their ability to wait until late in a contest before punishing their opponents with a flurry of points, the Bulldogs come into Sunday's clash as favourites.
My tip: Having dealt with their on-field and off-field distractions, the Bulldogs appear to be composed and focused on playing football. The Tigers have shown promise in recent matches, but unless they seem to be a work-in-progress rather than the finished product. Bulldogs by 10.
1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Michael Chee-Kam 4. Moses Suli 5. Kevin Naiqama 6. Mitchell Moses 21. Luke Brooks 8. Aaron Woods 9. Matt McIlwrick 10. Ava Seumanufagai 16. Joel Edwards 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Elijah Taylor 11. Josh Aloiai 14. Tim Grant 15. Sauaso Sue 17. Jacob Liddle
1. Brett Morris 2. Kerrod Holland 3. Josh Morris 4. Brenko Lee 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Moses Mbye 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. James Graham 11. Josh Jackson 12. Greg Eastwood 13. David Klemmer 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Danny Fualalo 16. Adam Elliot 20. Matt Frawley
Referees: Gerard Sutton, Peter Gough; Sideline Officials: Kasey Badger, Rohan Best; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Luke Patten