Schick Hydro Preview: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v St George Illawarra Dragons
Sydney's weather might have put a damper on Prince Harry's visit down under, but hopefully the clouds will have abated in time for rugby league to deliver a present of epic proportions for the Queen's Birthday on Monday afternoon.
It'll be a case of third-from-the-bottom taking on third-from-the-top when the Bulldogs play host to the Dragons in a game that both teams need to win, but for very different reasons.
The Bulldogs barely fired a shot in a 38-0 loss to the Panthers that has cast serious doubt over their finals aspirations. They haven't won since April and haven't scored 20 points since Round 7.
It's a different story for the Red V who – if results go their way – could find themselves just two points off the competition lead after 14 rounds.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler has made several changes to the side that went down to Penrith with regulars Josh Reynolds, James Graham and Brett Morris all returning, while Chase Stanley makes his long-awaited comeback from injury. Sam Kasiano and Matt Frawley go back to the bench while the right-edge pairing of Brenko Lee and Kerrod Holland drop out of the 17.
The Dragons have stuck with the same side that edged the Wests Tigers, with Tyson Frizell named despite leaving the field early with a rib complaint.
Why the Bulldogs can win: No team bounces back from adversity quite like the Bulldogs. The drums have been beating all week about a perceived crisis at Belmore, but this is the sort of situation where Des Hasler's men often produce their best. When they were thumped 36-0 by the Sea Eagles in Round 4, they bounced back the following week with a gutsy 10-7 win over Brisbane. Last year they were trounced 36-0 by the Cowboys but responded with a 13-10 win over the Dragons. And how can we forget when they fell to the Roosters 38-0 in 2013 – their fourth loss on the trot – only to claim a 16-point win over the Sharks the following week. Odd stats like this often pop up in the NRL so write off the Bulldogs at your own peril.
Why the Dragons can win: You can expect Paul McGregor's men to target the new-look combination down Canterbury's right edge. Chase Stanley and Marcelo Montoya have never played together at NRL level and that's music to the ears of Gareth Widdop, Tim Lafai and Jason Nightingale who have formed a potent combination of their own on the left flank. The Dragons have scored 16 tries down that channel this season while the Bulldogs have conceded 13 tries on that edge.
The history: Played 32; Bulldogs 21: Dragons 11. Canterbury fans will be quietly optimistic heading into this one given their side has won nine of its past 10 matches against the Dragons, including a 34-16 triumph in the corresponding fixture last year that featured Tony Williams's infamous 'Hand of Dog'. The Bulldogs have kicked a field goal in three of their past four wins over the Dragons, while the Red V have nailed a one-pointer in each of their past four wins over Canterbury.
Match officials: Referee: Ben Cummins. Assistant referee: Gavin Badger. Sideline officials: Dave Munro and Chris Butler.
Televised: Fox Sports 2 – Live coverage from 4pm.
NRL.com predicts: It's wet, their backs are against the wall and they are taking on a side they have dominated in recent times. All things point to a scrappy Bulldogs win, so we'll tip the Dragons by seven.