Sea Eagles v Dragons preview

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Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v St George Illawarra Dragons Sunday 2:00pm at Lottoland

Sea Eagles look to fend off Dragons and protect top-eight position

Once again, as they did last week against North Queensland, Manly will be playing to defend their spot in the top eight against a team looking to snatch it away from them.

A comfortable 36-12 win over Canterbury saw the Dragons storm up to tenth position and they now sit just two points behind the Sea Eagles.

As it stands, another four teams are in that same position. It means that every game is crucial for Des Hasler's men as they aim to capitalise on a strong start to 2019.

After a mini form slump which saw them drop two-straight games, Manly bounced back last week with a 22-20 triumph over the Cowboys.

It was far from convincing but once again showed the character and resolve Hasler has instilled in the side as they fought back from a 20-12 half-time deficit.

Revenge will also be on the cards on Sunday after the Sea Eagles were downed 12-10 by St. George Illawarra in controversial circumstances earlier this year.

It was after that Round 6 clash that the Dragons' season quickly started to spiral out of control.

Paul McGregor's men went on to lose five-straight games and found themselves in a sudden fight to keep their finals hopes alive.

The return of Corey Norman proved vital last week as they took down the Bulldogs.

The five-eighth had a hand in three of their tries and was a constant threat in attack.

Last meeting: Round 6 2019 - Dragons 12 Sea Eagles 10

A late try saw the Dragons down Manly 12-10 in Round 6 this year.

Who to watch: The battle of the fullbacks shapes as an interesting one on Sunday afternoon.

For the home side, Tom Trbojevic showed promising signs in his return from injury. While he wasn't at his best, making five errors, he still had two try-assists and line-break assists to his name.

You would only imagine he would get better with every game he plays.

And a Blues jumper appears destined to be his after Nick Cotric went down with an ankle injury on Thursday night.

All he has to do now is get through Sunday's game. But with other specialist wingers available you would think that Trbojevic will be doing all he can to ensure he is selected.

While Trbojevic is more of a ball-playing fullback, Dragons number one Matt Dufty hasn't fully developed that aspect of his game yet.

Rather, his running game is his strength. An injury to Zac Lomax means that the 23-year old is guaranteed a spot in first grade for another week.

But with McGregor desperate to nail down a spot in the top eight, one poor showing from Dufty could see him dropped back to reserve grade.

Gareth Widdop is also pencilled in for a return in around eight weeks' time.

With Norman and Ben Hunt favoured in the halves it means Dufty needs to take every opportunity he gets to prove he is the club's first-choice fullback.

The favourite: Manly are well backed at home. 

My tip: Could most certainly go either way but Manly have been the more consistent performer. Sea Eagles by 7.

1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Cade Cust 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Manase Fainu 15. Jack Gosiewski 16. Morgan Boyle 17. Taniela Paseka

1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jonus Pearson 3. Euan Aitken 22. Lachlan Maranta 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 10. Paul Vaughan 9. Cameron McInnes 16. Korbin Sims 11. Jacob Host 12. Tariq Sims 13. Tyson Frizell 8. Blake Lawrie 15. Reece Robson 17. Jai Field 18. Luciano Leilua

Referees: Chris Sutton, Phil Henderson; Sideline Officials: Rickey McFarlane, Liam Nicholls; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Galea;

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