Dragons v Sea Eagles preview

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St George Illawarra Dragons v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Saturday 5:30pm at WIN Stadium

Two sides with very different fortunes take each other on Saturday afternoon when the top of the table St George Illawarra Dragons take on the Manly Sea Eagles who are again going through instability.

The Dragons regained top spot on Monday when they scored a scrappy 18-16 victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs with the Dragons only managing two penalty goals in the second half. The Dragons came into the game sitting in equal first with the Panthers after having the bye which came after a heavy 28-2 defeat against the Panthers at Penrith Park. The Dragons will be looking to consolidate their top spot by put some space in their for and against over the Panthers who have a tough game themselves.

The Dragons started the season with 6 straight victories before only winning three of their next six with defeats coming against the Warriors, Souths and the Panthers. The Dragons last week ran out to a 14-6 lead at half time before the Bulldogs changed up the tactics and split the Dragons through the middle which has been a weakness of late for the Red V. The Dragons have kept a relatively unchanged line up from last week with Jason Nightingale being named on the bench after being named on the wing last week and dropped to the bench.

The Manly Sea Eagles have again been a club in crisis after more rumours of instability with former players coming out during the week attacking the club and players. The Sea Eagles last week took a home game to Christchurch against the Warriors and after starting superbly the Warriors got back into the game and the Sea Eagles were accused of negative tactics when they fell behind after continuously looking for touch in good position rather than attacking.

The Sea Eagles come into the game off the back of three defeats against the Raiders, Cowboys and Warriors which in turn followed back to back wins over the Broncos in Brisbane and the Storm in Melbourne. The Sea Eagles will be looking to find a new hooker for this weekend after initially naming teenager Manase Fainu as hooker but the application by Manly to play a player outside their top 30 was rejected and so it looks likely Lewis Brown will play at hooker.

Last meeting: Round 20 2017 - Dragons 52 Sea Eagles 22

The Dragons have won the past two clashes between the two sides and overall the Dragons have won 17 of the 27 clashes between the two sides with Manly last leaving Wollongong with a win in 2003.

Who to watch: Matt Dufty - The Dragons youngster has made himself an important part of the Dragons spine this season playing in every game of the season so far for the Dragons. The young fullback has been anything but a one-dimensional player for the Dragons with some good running metres as a full back but it's his ball playing skills that is to watch. Dufty has seven tries in 2018 but more impressive is that he has five try assists so far in 2018.

Daly Cherry-Evans - Having copped it last week for negative play and then during the week by Anthony Watmough who accused the Manly halfback of holding the club to ransom from the very start of his NRL career. DCE will have plenty to show after copping it from all corners during the week and he will need to stand up if Manly want to get anything from this season. The Manly halfback has just six try assists so far in 2018 which is well under the average of the top level halves in the competition and is just one more than Dragons fullback Matt Dufty.

The favourite: Unsurprisingly the Dragons are heavy favourites up against a hapless Manly side who has been in poor form.

My tip: It should be a question of by how many for the Dragons on paper, the Dragons have the better form leading into the game although they did leave plenty to be desired in their second half performance last week against a Bulldogs side who were poor. The Dragons should win this by plenty and back in the Gong they will be high on confidence. Dragons by 16.

1. Matthew Dufty 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Kurt Mann 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. Jason Nightingale 16. Leeson Ah Mau 17. Jacob Host

1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Moses Suli 4. Brian Kelly 5. Akuila Uate 6. Trent Hodkinson 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-blake 14. Matthew Wright 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Frank Winterstein 13. Jake Trbojevic 15. Brad Parker 16. Shaun Lane 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Tom Wright

Referees: Jon Stone, Alan Shortall; Sideline Officials: Michael Wise, Adam Cassidy; Video Referees: Luke Patten, Ben Cummins;

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