The Fifth Tackle: Round 14 v Dragons
This will be the first time these teams have played one another since the Bulldogs knocked the Dragons out of the 2015 finals series.
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.
Take a look at the five questions facing both sides.
Will the break help?
The Dragons come into this week’s clash with the Bulldogs off the back of a bye, while the Bulldogs will take to the field seven days after their heart-breaking loss to the Sharks. It would have been 16 days by the time kick-off comes round since the Dragons last played, when they defeated the Cowboys 14-10 in round 12. Will the break help the Dragons or play in to the hands of the Bulldogs?
Can the streak continue?
The Bulldogs may have lost their last two games, but they have won seven of their last eight against the Dragons, including a one point victory in last year’s final series and a win in the corresponding game 12 months ago. With the bye just around the corner for the Bulldogs, a must win on Monday is what matters most for the Bulldogs and if the boys from Belmore can put behind them a disappointing two weeks, will the winning streak over the Red V continue?
Is Widdop a target?
Dragons five-eight Gareth Widdop has missed 47 tackles this year and sits in fourth position for most missed tackles by a player in 2016. The talented number six will have a lot of questions thrown at him in defence and with a forward pack the size of the Bulldogs, the English International can expect plenty of traffic to come his way on Monday afternoon.
Can Garvey haunt the Dragons?
Craig Garvey managed 10 games at the Dragons in his three seasons of first grade, before joining the Bulldogs in 2016. The 23-year-old has cemented his spot in the Bulldogs 17 as the utility player from the interchange bench and has featured in eight of the Bulldogs' 13 NRL games. Garvey will line-up against his former club and great mate Mitch Rein this week and having spent so much time with the Red V, will Garvey’s knowledge provide the edge for the Bulldogs?
Will the halves be the difference?
Monday’s clash between two arch rivals will feature two quality sets of halves. The Dragons have an experienced pair in Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop, both Internationals with 375 first grade games experience. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have an exciting, young and talented halves pairing in Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye who have only 154 NRL games between them. The Dragons pair have come under a lot of pressure over the past 18 months, while the Bulldogs pair is a new combination continuing to develop. Will the result on Monday come down to the experience of the Dragons or the youth of the Bulldogs?