Sea Eagles v Dragons preview

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Will the Sea Eagles soar to their first win in two months?

Going agonisingly close to upsetting the reigning premiers in Townsville, the Sea Eagles return to Brookvale Oval on Monday night to tackle a Dragons outfit coming off their best attacking display of 2016. With seven consecutive losses against them, the former competition heavyweights find themselves in unfamiliar territory after a decade of dominance. Returning home for the first time since their second half fade out against the Panthers, coach Trent Barrett will head into the match optimistic about his sides chances having come from behind to lead the Cowboys last Monday night. In the only change from the side beaten 30-26, mid-season recruit Matthew Wright comes onto an extended bench. With their attack likely to outweigh the Dragons, Manly will be looking to add to their good form over the Red V, having managed three wins from the past four fixtures.

Posting six tries against a defensively poor Newcastle outfit last Saturday, the Dragons head into the Round 17 fixture with newfound confidence. Having based their victories primarily around defence in 2016, coach Paul McGregor will be hopeful his side can flex their attacking muscle to add further misery upon the Sea Eagles. In the only change from the side that prevailed 30-18 against the Knights, new recruit Tariq Sims returns to first grade in place of Will Matthews. Having sat out last week due to contractual stipulations, Sims will play his 100th NRL game on Monday night after starting out with North Queensland in 2011.

Last meeting: Round 4 2015 - Dragons 12 Sea Eagles 4

Who to watch: With the Manly interchange forwards laying an effective platform in their loss to the Cowboys, returning prop Martin Taupau will be out to ensure the Sea Eagles start well on Monday night. Having had his season disrupted through suspension, the former Tigers enforcer hasn't quite lived up to the reputation afforded him following his non-conventional arrival to the Northern Beaches earlier this season. At his best, the Kiwi international ranks as the most devastating ball runner in the competition, with his fearless aggression instilling fear in opponents and energy into teammates. With their hopes of featuring in the finals all but extinguished, the Sea Eagles will be out to upset their hopeful opponents and show there are signs for the future under coach Trent Barrett.

After a breakthrough season with the Cowboys five years ago, winger Kalifa Fai-Fai Loa appears to have rediscovered the form that saw him represent New Zealand. Having drifted in and out of the North Queensland and Gold Coast first grade teams, the exciting winger has made his presence felt since returning to the club he debuted for in 2010. Crossing for five tries in nine games this season, the 26-year-old speedster has benefitted from the time afforded him in the top grade and returned the good will with his performances. Facing off against Jorge Taufua, Fai-Fai Loa will be ready for a duel of power versus speed and have his sights set on returning the Dragons to the top eight.

The favourite: Having pushed the Cowboys all the way last week, Manly head into their third straight Monday game as favourites.

My tip: They may not have come away with two points in Townsville, but the Sea Eagles should return to Brookvale Oval with the confidence to break their seven match losing run. Manly by 4.

3. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 5. Brayden Wiliame 4. Dylan Walker 18. Matthew Wright 6. Jamie Lyon 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Darcy Lussick 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Nathan Green 12. Jamie Buhrer 13. Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: 14. Lewis Brown 15. Josh Starling 16. Addin Fonua-blake 17. Luke Burgess

1. Josh Dugan 2. Kalifa Faifai Loa 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Benji Marshall 8. Leeson Ah Mau 9. Mitch Rein 10. Russell Packer 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jack de Belin
Interchange: 14. Tariq Sims 15. Jacob Host 16. Dunamis Lui 17. Jake Marketo

Referees: Gavin Badger, Henry Perenara; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, Adam Reid; Video Referees: Luke Patten, Ashley Klein, Bryan Norrie

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