Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Back to Belmore for Indigenous Round.
Just two points separated the Bulldogs and the Storm in their first match this season but as the competition has gone on, the fortunes of the two sides have been very different - with Canterbury languishing in 14th with just three wins, whilst the Storm sit up in second spot with eight wins from their ten games.
The 'Dogs took themselves of the bottom of the NRL ladder last weekend after they overturned a 16-0 deficit to defeat the Titans 22-16 at Robina. They'd started very slowly and it looked a very strong chance that they would slip back under the Panthers at the foot of the ladder, but were impressive for the final hour of the match, bringing the scoreline back to 12-16 at halftime before leaving their opponents scoreless in the second half.
After a mixed season last year, Canterbury were looking to improve their fortunes in 2019 but their season to date has been poor, despite some gutsy performances including their win over Wests Tigers in Round 3, that two-point loss to Melbourne at AAMI Park a week later, and their low-scoring Good Friday loss to Souths. The Bulldogs haven't been able to find any consistency however for a team down the bottom of the ladder, they are currently the side with the highest completion rate. Working against them though, is the fact they have missed the second most number of tackles this season. This week they've recalled Christian Crichton after a good performance in Canterbury Cup last weekend, and he slots into the backline in place of Jayden Okunbor who is out injured.
Melbourne currently sit second on the NRL ladder but it hasn't been the clinical Storm side that we have seen in recent year, and coach Craig Bellamy has been one of the first to say so. They come into this match off the back of a last-gasp win over Wests Tigers, having to score two tries in the final ten minutes to get over the line and claim the victory. The less-than-crisp performance from the 2018 runners-up came off the back of a very good 64-10 win in Magic Round against the Eels.
Throughout 2019, the Storm have been unusually slow to begin and it has been this aspect that has been that has been a big part of their less stellar performances. It's hard to really find a negative on a team who is coming second and has scored the second most points in the competition, but they have looked vulnerable at times. Melbourne do welcome Jahrome Hughes back at fullback, with exciting prospect Ryan Papenhuyzen dropping to the bench and Christian Welch is the player to miss out after last week sustaining a knee injury.
Last meeting: Round 4 2019 - Storm 18 Bulldogs 16
Surprisingly, the Bulldogs are one of a few teams to lead the head-to-head contests against the Storm winning 21 of the 40 head to head clashes. The two sides have played twice at Belmore since the resumption of NRL at the ground in 2014, and the games have been split 1-1. Prior to that, in 1998, the Bulldogs had ironically won the last game at Belmore against the Storm. From 1999 the club moved its base to ANZ Stadium where it has remained in some capacity ever since.
Who to watch: Veteran half Kieran Foran has had an injury-cursed time at the Bulldogs but his experience came to the fore last weekend in trying to get the Bulldogs back into the game against the Titans and ultimately delivering victory. The Kiwi international has still shown strong glimpses during his uninjured periods in the last few seasons, and if he can get a consistent patch of form the Bulldogs can be in with a strong chance against the Storm.
Storm halfback Brodie Croft has played second fiddle in his side's attack behind five-eighth Cameron Munster but the number 7 has still been very good for the Storm in his ten matches this season. Croft can stun most opposition with his talent and if Munster goes down or is struggling, Croft can take control.
The favourite: Unsurprisingly, the Storm are heavy favourites to win the game.
My tip: The game could play out in very similar fashion to the Round 4 contest between the two sides and despite a big difference in ladder position, the Storm won't have it easy on Sunday and the game could go down to the wire with the Bulldogs having some confidence. Storm by 4.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the country on which this match takes place - the Bidgigal people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
1. Nick Meaney 2. Christian Crichton 3. Marcelo Montoya 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Kieran Foran 7. Jack Cogger 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 13. Chris Smith 14. Rhyse Martin 15. Ofahiki Ogden 16. Danny Fualalo 17. Sauaso Sue
1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Marion Seve 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith 15. Joe Stimson 16. Tui Kamikamica 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen
Referees: Chris Sutton, Chris Butler; Sideline Officials: Liam Nicholls, Nick Beashel; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Ben Lowe;