Round 20: Dragons v Storm preview
159 games will have been played and won and on Sunday afternoon the 160th and final regular season game will see the St George Illawarra Dragons take on the Melbourne Storm at WIN Stadium.
The St George Illawarra Dragons have again had a season to forget as they languish down in 13th spot on the NRL ladder. Last weekend, the Red ‘V' didn't have the best of afternoons in Newcastle when they suffered a 42-18 defeat.
All that was wanted by Dragons fans was an improvement in their fortunes which saw them finish down the ladder in 15th spot but despite an improved ladder positions, the Saints have struggled to really put together an improved season. The Dragons performance last weekend was a disaster class where the Knights were able to run in five converted tries to one in the first half.
Dragons interim coach Dean Young has made a couple of changes to the squad with a completely new halves pairing this weekend with Corey Norman dropped whilst Ben Hunt has been suspended. The new look halves pairing sees Adam Clune return to the side to be partnered with debutant Jayden Sullivan.
The Melbourne Storm have had their usual consistent season which has seen them finish second behind the Penrith Panthers. The Storm who have lost just three games this season took victory last weekend over the Tigers with a 50-22 win.
The Storm have had a good season losing just three games this season but have impressed many people with the clinical nature in many of their victories. Last weekend, the Storm cracked the half century against the Tigers despite some question marks over their defence at times last weekend which saw the Wests Tigers run in four tries.
Craig Bellamy has wrung the changes with no less than 16 players added to the squad who didn't take the field last weekend with 12 players being rested including Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster, Josh Addo-Carr and Nelson Asofa-Solomona. Although, many key stars are being rested Ryan Papenhuyzen returns to the side.
Who to watch: Rookie half Adam Clune has had a solid start to his career in the halves but leading the attack for the Dragons up against the Storm will be his biggest challenge especially as he will be partnering debutant Jayden Sullivan in the halves. Clune will need to take a strong leadership role as the Storm despite missing key stars will be very tough to break down.
Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen comes back into the side after missing the past few weeks and immediately picks up the captaincy on his return. Papenhuyzen has been ultra-important for the Storm this season but will need to take on a stronger leadership role this weekend against the Dragons. Papenhuyzen will likely take on the role of a third play-maker which will be a danger for the Red ‘V'.
My tip: Even though they've rested all their key players, the Dragons were too bad to ignore last weekend and there is still enough talent in the Melbourne squad to take victory. The Dragons have had almost no-form of late winning just one of their past five and it will take a lot of improvement to get up to a competitive standard. Although the Melbourne side is much weaker than normal, they still have enough to take victory on Sunday. Storm by 10.