Dragons v Bulldogs Match Preview
Schick Hydro Preview: St George Illawarra Dragons v Canterbury Bulldogs
This will be the first time these teams have played one another since the Bulldogs knocked the Dragons out of the 2015 finals series.
That encounter finished as an 11-10 thriller, with a Josh Reynolds field goal in golden point extra time sent the Dragons packing for Mad Monday.
Whether revenge is on the Dragons' minds remains to be seen but this game will prove important in the context of each side's finals hopes.
The Bulldogs are no stranger to the taste of a tough defeat themselves after suffering a last-gasp loss 20-18 to the competition-leading Sharks last Monday night. Des Hasler has named the same 17 which went down to the Sharks.
The Dragons enjoyed the spoils of a bye weekend in Round 13 and have only replaced Josh McCrone with Siliva Havili on the bench as a result.
Watch out Dragons: It's going to be big day for front-rowers Leeson Ah Mau and Russell Packer if the Dragons are to win the territorial battle. Against the Sharks, the Bulldogs made the point of not kicking when on their opponents' try-line. Rather they preferred to roll the dice and get tackled on the last tackle – avoiding dreaded seven-tackle sets from a 20-metre restart – and making the opponents tough it out of their own end. St George Illawarra's big men can expect more of the same this week.
Watch out Bulldogs: Tyson Frizell has never been closer to an Origin debut now that Blues forward Boyd Cordner has been ruled out of the series. Whether Laurie Daley opts to play the right-edge back-rower Frizell on the left remains to be seen. But you'd think after being 18th man for Origin I he'd be in with a chance, and this is his final opportunity for Frizell to impress the NSW coach.
Key match-up: Jason Nightingale v Will Hopoate. There's been nothing makeshift about the form of each team's fill-in fullback of late. Hopoate returned from a month-long absence against the Sharks in explosive fashion and was the Bulldogs' players' player as a result. Nightingale's time in the No.1 jumper was extended over the bye weekend when Josh Dugan was ruled out for six weeks with an elbow injury. The Red V's last-start win over the Cowboys saw Nightingale return to fullback for the first time in three seasons where he tempered North Queensland's kicking game with aplomb.
The history: Played 30; Dragons 11, Bulldogs 19. The Dragons may have been knocked out of last year's finals series by the Bulldogs but it's a problem nothing new to the Red V. St George Illawarra's problems against the Bulldogs date back to 2012 having lost seven of their past eight games against them.
Match Officials: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee: Chris James. Sideline Officials: Brett Suttor and Ricky MacFarlane.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live Coverage from 3:30pm.
The way we see it: The Bulldogs' history against the Dragons is too good to deny. The Bulldogs will be desperate to bounce back against the Red V to make up for their loss to the Sharks. The Bulldogs are still within reach of a top-four spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder and that will sit firmly in mind on Monday. Bulldogs by eight points.