Panthers v Dragons preview
4 hours ago | Andrew Jackson
The conclusion of Round 4 sees yet another local derby as the St George Illawarra Dragons play host to their local rivals Cronulla, with both sides looking to bounce back from losses in Round 3.
St George Illawarra come into the game with a win and a loss from their opening two matches of the season, after starting the year with a Round 1 bye.
They were well and truly in the contest for 70 minutes last weekend at Suncorp Stadium before a capitulation saw the Broncos put four tries past the Red V in the final ten, to consign them to a 40-18 defeat.
A strong performance in their first game - a home win over the Titans - was a big confidence boost for the Dragons who struggled in the pre-season challenge and then last week they looked good for a long period of the contest before they fell victim to Brisbane's scintillating attack.
Coming up against the Sharks, they will have confidence that they can match their opponents for a long period - especially given Cronulla's patchy form - something the visitors need to improve on.
The Red V have one change to their side with rookie Toby Couchman returning on the bench after missing last week's game through concussion management protocols. The return of Couchman sees Michael Molo drop to the reserves in what is an otherwise unchanged lineup.
Cronulla have been inconsistent over the opening three weeks and, despite some good looking and strong football at times, they've also looked very soft occasionally. They will want to improve on their 1-2 start to the season. Last weekend, they went down to Canberra 24-20 in a game that saw the scoreboard flatter them.
All up, they have shown that they can match any team with impressive moments - against Souths in Round 1 they looked good before falling into a heap - just like their opponents this coming Sunday.
In Round 2, the Sharks got a victory over Parramatta, though having to come from behind and then hold off a fast-finishing Eels outfit. In Sunday's loss against the Raiders, they were poor - and lucky to stay in the contest.
The teamsheet holds a massive boost for them though, in the shape of Nicho Hynes returning to the side for the first time in 2023 after recovering from a niggling calf injury.
This sees Braydon Trindall (who has arguably been the best player for Cronulla this season) moving to the bench and Jack Williams to 18th man.
Last meeting: Round 21 2022 - Sharks 24 Dragons 18
Who to watch: After being under pressure in the fullback role last season, Tyrell Sloan has had a good start to the season. Coming up against the Sharks, his position is going to be the focus especially with the way that the Sharks play. The last few minutes of last weeks game will put the Dragons custodian under big pressure.
Returning from injury, Hynes is going to make a big impact for the Sharks but the question is whether he is 100% fit. The team from the Shire have played mixed football and naturally the return of the Dally M winner is going to have an impact, but it's whether the rest of the Cronulla team can step up with him as well.
Favourite: The Sharks are the favourites with a stronger line up.
My tip: It is hard to go past the Sharks, they have a better line up on paper and the return of Nicho Hynes proves a bigger boost. The overall quality of football is better from the Sharks in the past few weeks and the capitulation at the end from the Dragons last week was poor. The key factor will be the performance of Nicho Hynes which is how I think Cronulla step up. Sharks by 10.
1. Tyrell Sloan 2. Mathew Feagai 3. Moses Suli 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Jayden Sullivan 7. Ben Hunt 8. Francis Molo 9. Moses Mbye 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Ben Murdoch-Masila 12. Jaydn Su'A 15. Zane Musgrove 13. Jack Bird 14. Jacob Liddle 16. Toby Couchman 17. Josh Kerr 22. Aaron Woods
1. William Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Siosifa Talakai 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Matt Moylan 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Toby Rudolf 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Braden Hamlin-Uele 11. Briton Nikora 12. Teig Wilton 13. Dale Finucane 14. Cameron McInnes 15. Royce Hunt 16. Oregon Kaufusi 18. Jack Williams 19. Mawene Hiroti
Referees: Todd Smith; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, Drew Oultram; Video Referees: Matt Noyen;