Dragons v Sharks preview

NRL TelstraPremiership GRAD
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St George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Friday 7:50pm at WIN Stadium

It feels like we did this only a month ago? Oh, we did.

It's on again. The Local derby down in the 'gong. A rampaging Dragons line-up that has slayed all before them, including this weekend's opponent, look to sweep the series against the Sharks for the first time since 2014. 

St George Illawarra have looked impervious in the opening five weeks of the competition, directed around well by million-dollar Ben Hunt which has allowed Gareth Widdop to play a secondary, more roaming role across the field - not to mention the flourishing form of the backline, both Nene Macdonald and Euan Aitken with their monstrous forward pack has the Saints fans lining up for Grand Final tickets (who ever regretted that?)

Will the real Sharks fullback please stand up? The Sharks have used three fullbacks in the first five rounds, with currently, former Panther Matt Moylan tipped to take the role on Friday. Their attack has looked clunky thus far, failing to score more than 16 points in their five games which has left Shane Flanaghan chopping and changing. 

Another conundrum for the Sharks boss has been getting livewire winger Valentine Holmes more involved. He has a pair of tries thus far this season and much like, the Sharks, has stuttered through the opening month. If the Sharks are to claim local bragging rights, they need to simplify their game, direct much of the game through their ferocious forward pack to create the space for Holmes and the like to make their magic. 

Last meeting: Round 2 2018 - Sharks 16 Dragons 20

Who to watch: There has been a lot of hype for Euan Aitken thus far this season. The centre helped his representative cause with a decision victory over Greg Inglis last Friday at Kogarah. Now, with the injuries hopefully behind him, Aitken has crossed four times this season and his strength combined with a turn of pace has helped the Dragons to their undefeated start. 

For Cronulla - it is easy to either choose Holmes or Moylan as those to watch, but those two come off the back of their forwards. As mentioned earlier, they need their big boys to set the table for the tablecloth that is the backline, in their first game, the Dragons targeted Andrew Fifita, the Tongan-Australian prop needs to produce against the much-vaunted Saints pack.

The favourite: As competition leaders the Dragons are favourites, but being a derby the Sharks are attracting a fair bit of interest.

My tip: Its hard to tip against the Dragons in their current form, and with the Sharks not knowing who they know is their best fullback, they should take this contest by two tries. Dragons by 10.

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. Jeremy Latimore 15. Kurt Mann 16. Leeson Ah Mau 17. Hame Sele

1. Matt Moylan 2. Edrick Lee 3. Josh Dugan 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Trent Hodkinson 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen 14. Kurt Capewell 15. Kurt Dillon 16. Ava Seumanufagai 17. Joseph Paulo

Referees: Ashley Klein, Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials: Brett Suttor, Rohan Best; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;

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