Looking for six wins in a row, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs take on the St George Illawarra Dragons this Sunday at ANZ Stadium.
Coming off a break for the representative round last weekend, the Bulldogs are still riding a wave of five straight wins. With their best start to a season since 2009, Canterbury will be careful not to lose any momentum this Sunday.
With wins against 5 of last year’s top eight, including the Roosters, Souths, Melbourne, Cronulla & Newcastle, the Bulldogs are favourites to continue their great form.
The Dragons started the season with three straight wins but have since lost four of their last five matches. These losses however, were all against top competition including losses to the Broncos, Roosters, Souths and Melbourne.
Thanks to Canterbury’s strong start to the season, 8 of the Bulldogs starting 17 to line up this week, were selected for either City Country or the Trans Tasman Test. Josh Morris lined up for Australia against Greg Eastwood in the Test whilst Country players Aiden Tolman, Dale Finucane and Josh Jackson all took the field against City reps Josh Reynolds, Tony Williams and David Klemmer.
“For guys like David Klemmer, Josh Jackson and Dale Finucane, you can really see a spring in their step that they’ve been recognised for the efforts they’ve put in the last few seasons,” said Ennis at a press conference this Thursday.
Klemmer in particular has been in outstanding form for a rookie with little over 10 career first grade games to his name. 95 metres in 14 minutes against the Panthers, 142 metres and three tackle-breaks in half an hour against the Storm, 88 metres and three tackle busts in 19 minutes against the Warriors. And last week, Klemmer ran for 123 metres and made 13 tackles for City in his first representative game.
The smaller, more agile pack at the Dragons will have their work cut out for them against a monstrous Bulldogs pack. In Round 8 against the Roosters, the Dragons defence allowed every member of the Premiers forward pack to make over 100 running metres. Canterbury currently boasts the most metres in the NRL with 13,565 over 8 games.
“They might not have all the big names in the forward pack but they’re doing their job every week. We’re going to be up for a real big challenge and our boys are looking forward to that,” said Dogs lock Greg Eastwood.
In form back three for the Dragons: Josh Dugan, Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale have dominated in recent times, but the loss of Nightingale will leave a massive hole. The Dragons back three have made 1052m on kick returns so far this year.
Tim Lafai returns for the blue and white, with Moses Mbye moving to an extended bench. Chase Stanley will try and prove his fitness throughout the week in an attempt to line up against his old club. Krisnan Inu also showed some tremendous form for Samoa against Fiji last Saturday night and could warrant a late call up.
Sam Williams replaces Michael Witt at halfback. Jason Nightingale is out with a knee injury, meaning Joel Thompson moves to left centre, pushing Nathan Green onto the wing. Bronson Harrison moves into the back row and Leeson Ah Mau comes onto the bench. Dan Hunt has been named to start with Jack Stockwell warming the bench.
The Bulldogs boast a great record against the Dragons, having won their last four showdowns with the Dragons. Before that it was the Red V that went on a six-game hot streak across three years.
The last time these two sides met was at WIN Jubilee Oval in Round 21, 2013. The Bulldogs came back from 16-0 down to win the match 39-20 after a massive game from Sam Kasiano.
Head to Head
Played 26; Bulldogs 16, Dragons 10
At ANZ Stadium
Played 11, Canterbury 6, Dragons 5