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Tigers look to cement Top Eight position against desperate Dogs
If you are hoping to be treated to a spectacle of free-flowing footy and attacking brilliance on Sunday afternoon, this is not the game for you. Both the Tigers and Bulldogs' fatal flaw this year has been their inability to score points. Ivan Cleary's men started the year in unexpected fashion, winning 5 of their opening 6 games to face towards the top of the ladder. However, a dip in form in the past month has seen them plummet down the table and they are at risk of dropping out of the Top Eight all together if they lose this week. Despite holding the third-best defence in the competition, it means little when they are struggling to score points. That was evident in last week's loss to Penrith. Despite a determined defensive effort, Cleary's side still failed to cross the stripe and succumbed to a 16-2 loss. They are, however, boosted by the return of former Bulldog Josh Reynolds who ironically returns this week to face his previous teammates.
While the Tigers may be out of form at the moment, the situation is far worse for Dean Pay's Bulldogs. Canterbury have not been as bad as their recent form line suggests. Despite losing 4 of their past 5 games, those defeats have been by just six, eight and two-point margins. A lack of creativity in attack has severely hampered their chances in those losses and it won't get any easier this week given that they will be without the club's top try-scorer Josh Morris (knee, two months). If they cannot improve in attack they have a slim chance of overcoming a Tigers side renowned for their resolute defence.
Last meeting: Round 8 2017 - Wests Tigers 18 Bulldogs 12
Who to watch: For the home side, look for Mahe Fonua to make it up for his teammates after missing last week's game with Penrith for disciplinary reasons. The barnstorming centre was dropped after turning up late for training and the Tigers really missed his power out wide. Fonua's previous performance against the Cowboys was electric, with the Tongan powerhouse recording 230 running metres, one line-break and five tackle-busts in a mammoth effort. His genuine game-breaking ability will be vital for a Tigers side struggling in attack.
Meanwhile, Canterbury prop Aaron Woods will be looking for a big performance against his former club as he looks to cement his place within the NSW Origin side. Woods has had a solid start to 2018, averaging 124 running metres per game. However, against an underrated Tigers pack including the likes of Ben Matulino and Russel Packer, Woods will need to step up alongside fellow Origin hopeful David Klemmer. The entire St. George Illawarra forward pack are threatening to steal Woods' sky-blue jersey and it is now up to him to prove that he still has what it takes.
The favourite: The Tigers are favoured to bounce back from last week's loss to Penrith.
My tip: Both sides have struggled in attack recently but the Tigers' determined defence should see them claim victory. Tigers by 8.
1. Tuimoala Lolohea 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Mahe Fonua 5. Corey Thompson 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Ben Matulino 11. Chris Lawrence 12. Michael Chee Kam 13. Elijah Taylor 14. Alex Twal 15. Josh Reynolds 16. Matt Eisenhuth 18. Josh Aloiai
1. Moses Mbye 2. Brett Morris 3. John Olive 4. William Hopoate 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Matt Frawley 7. Kieran Foran 8. Aaron Woods 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 14. Adam Elliot 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Rhyse Martin 10. David Klemmer 15. Clay Priest 16. Renouf To'omaga 17. Kerrod Holland
Referees: Henry Perenara, Ashley Klein; Sideline Officials: Kasey Badger, Chris Butler; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Ben Galea;