Dolphins v Dragons preview

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Dolphins v St George Illawarra Dragons Thursday 7:50pm at Kayo Stadium, Redcliffe / Kabi Kabi

Dragons Look to Continue Smooth Carr-ride on the Road Against Dolphins

The Dragons, fresh off the hook from having Griffin as their coach, made a statement with a thrilling last second victory over the Roosters last week, while the Dolphins produced yet another second half comeback but ultimately fell short against a Melbourne team that started fast.

These two sides last met in round 5, and it was a blowout win for the Dragons, however Thursday night's clash will be under much different circumstances. The disastrous Anthony Griffin era has finally ended for the red-v, with Ryan Carr no doubt looking to make the most of his opportunity, while the Dolphins have come back to the pack since their 3-1 start but are still vastly exceeding expectations.

Given it is the week before State of Origin, neither side will be at full strength, with arguably the most important spine players from both teams headed into Maroons camp. How the Dolphins and Dragons go about replacing the output of Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Ben Hunt respectively will go a long way to determining the outcome of the match, while Tom Gilbert is also going to be missed by the hosts. 

What should be of concern to the Dragons is the nature that they let the Roosters back into the contest last week. Up 14-0 with just over 30 minutes to play, the Saints conceded 3 tries in the space of 11 minutes to surrender their lead in a flash. 

This issue is amplified by the fact the Dolphins have become known for their second half comebacks in 2023. Their rally from 26-0 down a month ago won't be forgotten anytime soon, while also erasing deficits against the Raiders (twice actually, winning one and losing one). They've also come close to stealing wins with 2nd half surges against the Broncos and Storm. 

With no Ben Hunt to steer the ship, the Dragons will have a hard enough time building a lead to begin with, let alone sustaining it against the Dolphins.

Last meeting: Round 5 2023 - Dragons 38 Dolphins 12

Who to watch: Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has been one of the Dolphins' best this year and has been deservedly rewarded with a Maroons jumper for his efforts. Stepping in to replace him at fullback this week is none other than Mr Fix-it Kodi Nikorima. Nikorima is primarily a half but started 3 games in the custodian role for the Rabbitohs last season, and with all due there is a reason that number isn't higher. While many of his red-zone attacking skills are transferrable to the number 1 jersey, Nikorima is a liability under the high ball and lacks kick returning ability, averaging just 7.4 metres per run in those aforementioned fullback starts for Souths. If Nikorima can get through the game without making an ill-timed error that puts his side under pressure, it'll be a success.

While Ben Hunt is clearly an irreplaceable player, Dragons fans will see a silver lining to his origin-related absence in that young gun Jayden Sullivan should get a chance to play 80 minutes in the halves for the first time since Round 4. In his magic round return against the Tigers, Sullivan looked like a threat almost every time he had the ball in the opposition half, scoring a superb individual try double that almost saved the game for the Saints. In the two games since, Sullivan was bizarrely benched in the first half by the now departed Griffin and only played a minute role off the bench in the win over Sydney. No-one expects Sullivan to control the game and build constant pressure on the opposition like Ben Hunt would, but he has the talent to make a game-breaking play at any moment from anywhere on the field, and doing so would go a long way to the Dragons causing an upset.

Favourite: The Dolphins are 6-point favourites at the time of writing.

My tip: There's no reason this game shouldn't be in the balance with 15 minutes to go. Either side could win, but the home ground advantage and extra experience in key positions makes me lean slightly the way of the Dolphins. Dolphins by 2

1. Kodi Nikorima 2. Jamayne Isaako 3. Euan Aitken 4. Brenko Lee 5. Tesi Niu 6. Anthony Milford 7. Isaiya Katoa 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Herman Ese'ese 11. Kenny Bromwich 12. Connelly Lemuelu 13. Ray Stone 14. Jarrod Wallace 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Mason Teague 17. Valynce Te Whare 18. Poasa Faamausili

1. Tyrell Sloan 2. Mathew Feagai 3. Moses Suli 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Talatau Amone 7. Jayden Sullivan 8. Francis Molo 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Michael Molo 11. Jack Bird 12. Ben Murdoch-Masila 13. Jack de Belin 14. Moses Mbye 15. Toby Couchman 16. Jaiyden Hunt 17. Josh Kerr 18. Billy Burns

Referees: Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Chris Sutton, Todd Smith; Video Referees: Chris Butler;

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