Sharks v Dragons preview

NRL TelstraPremiership GRAD
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Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v St George Illawarra Dragons Thursday 8:05pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium

Much like Stella, St George got their groove back.

The Joint venture club looked impressive in their 34-12 victory against a lackluster Brisbane Broncos, where the new halves pairing of Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop shone, highlighted by a roadrunner-like 50-metre intercept from Hunt. 

It was a victory that was built on the same principles the Dragons have used in the McGregor era. The forwards munched through the metres, with interchange forward Leeson Ah Mau topping the charts with 175. This platform allowed Hunt and Widdop to work their magic as they pinned the Broncos back and in the second half, pile on the points against a decent team.

Now, it is a short trip down the highway to face, not only their local rivals, Cronulla but added further spice to the contest is Josh Dugan. At times, Dugan was a lightning rod for criticism during his Dragons tenure, now after wanting "fullback money" despite McGregor seeing him as a centre, he defected down the road. 

It was a busy off-season overall for the Sharks with the addition of Matthew Moylan to a star-studded Sharks line-up promised much more than their semi-final exit in 2017. Sadly, opening night was more local theater than Broadway, as the Sharks bumbled their way to a 20-14 loss to North Queensland. 

They have a chance for instant redemption - Cronulla loves to get one over their 'bigger' brother and playing under the lights at Shark Park, in front of a rowdy crowd makes for a mouth-watering contest. Throw in superstars like Dugan, Holmes, Hunt, Widdop and everyone's favourite pantomime villain Paul Gallen and Round 2 will kick off with a bang.

Last meeting: Round 10 2017 - Dragons 14 Sharks 18

Who to watch: In a game that will be tight, tense and close - it will left to Chad Townsend as the director to the stars of the Sharks backline. Much of the success last season came down to the half control of play, and against a massive Dragons pack, if he can turn them around all night which brings in fatigue and can spell disaster for the visitors.

The sequel is never as good as the first - can Ben Hunt build on the impressive debut in a much more intense atmosphere. Dragons wilted later in the season due to the pressure heaped on Widdop, so with Hunt on board, can the former Bronco produce a moment of magic like his intercept again, or create the spark that tips the derby in the Dragons favour.

The favourite: An old adage says that form goes out in local derbies, so there is no clear favourite on Thursday.

My tip: If pressed - the Dragons edge it due to last week's showings. Dragons by 2.

3. Josh Dugan 2. Sosaia Feki 5. Aaron Gray 4. Ricky Leutele 1. Valentine Holmes 6. Matt Moylan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Jayson Bukuya 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen 14. Kurt Capewell 15. James Segeyaro 16. Ava Seumanufagai 17. Joseph Paulo

1. Matthew Dufty 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jack de Belin 14. Luciano Leilua 15. Kurt Mann 16. Leeson Ah Mau 18. Jeremy Latimore

Referees: Gavin Badger, Peter Gough; Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Video Referees: Ashley Klein, Luke Patten;

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