St. George Illawarra Dragons vs. Cronulla Sharks
MATCH UP STATS
St. George Illawarra Dragons vs. Cronulla Sharks
Season record:St. George Illawarra Dragons: 6-3Cronulla Sharks: 6-3
Last 5 results:St. George Illawarra Dragons: LLWWWCronulla Sharks: WLWWW
First try-scorer:St. George Illawarra Dragons: Nene Macdonald - $13Cronulla Sharks: Sosaia Feki - $9.50
Friday, May 12, 8pm. UOW Jubilee Oval
FORTUNES can change very quickly in the NRL and the Dragons are in danger of slipping off the wheel after picking up two key injuries.
The Dragons were travelling much better than expected this season after round seven, having won five of its first seven games and riding a four-game winning streak, but a narrow loss to the Roosters and the injuries to Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan loom large.
Widdop and Dugan are two of the Dragons’ best players – with Dugan set to be out for three weeks following his broken cheekbone suffered in the Kangaroos’ win against the Kiwis on Friday night.
Definitely fractured my cheekbone, will be seeing a specialist in Sydney in the coming days. Pt1
— Josh Dugan (@Josh_Dugan) May 5, 2017
The news came as a bitter blow for the Dragons, who will now be forced to use a third-string goal kicker as Dugan was taking over from Widdop. Having no quality halves and no fullback will take its toll on the Dragons as they come up against the in-form Sharks.
The Sharks had scored impressive victories over the Storm (11-2) and Panthers (28-2) before losing to the Titans in a big upset, but they rebounded nicely to beat the Tigers last week and the bookmakers are confident the defending champions will continue their winning ways.
It’s never easy to win back-to-back championships in the NRL and many expected a drop off in form for the Sharks, but with a 6-3 record, the Sharks are travelling nicely and punters have latched on to the head-to-head price.
The worrying factor for Sharks punters is its record at Jubilee Oval. The Sharks have won only three from its 10 games at the venue and the last time these two teams met the Dragons won by 16-10.
In the Sharks’ favour is a healthy team which looks far superior on paper. The Dragons’ halves combination features Kurt Mann and Josh McCrone – which pails in comparison to the combination of James Maloney and Chad Townsend for the Sharks.
Many believe the Dragons downfall will start this round, but this Friday’s clash should be an exciting one and the Dragons will play with passion as they have plenty to prove.
We look at the individual players for both teams and pick out our top try-scoring hopes for both sides. There’s plenty of value in both camps and punters have been making plenty of cash in the try-scoring markets already this season.
Dragons team and first try scorer tips
The Dragons team has taken a hit through injuries in the past few weeks, but a strong side has been announced to take on the Sharks.
Kiwi internationals Jason Nightingale and Russell Packer will give them plenty of experience and the likes of Tyson Frizell and Joel Thompson will add another threat to the lineup.
Eight of the 21 players named have yet to play every game this season.
1. Jason NIghtingale – $19
2. Nene Macdonald – $13
3. Euan Aitken – $17
4. Timoteo Lafai – $21
5. Taane Milne – $15
6. Kurt Mann – $26
7. Josh McCrone – $36
8. Russell Packer – $76
9. Cameron McInnes – $41
10. Paul Vaughan – $31
11. Tyson Frizell – $34
12. Joel Thompson – $31
13. Jack de Belin – $36
The centre combination of Euan Aitken and Timoteo Lafai loom as strong contenders in the try-scoring ranks this week.
Both players have scored four tries this season, with Aitken scoring four tries in only seven games. Aitken is more of a running threat close to the line and he likes to run it hard and straight.
With only six offloads and one try assist, punters know what they’re going to get with Aitken and selfishness isn’t the worst aspect when it comes to scoring tries. He has a taste for the white line and punters are getting $17 at Sportsbet.com.au for Aitken to score first this Friday.
Lafai is a different type of centre who offers a range of skills. He has scored four tries this season, but has an incredible 20 offloads. That means defenders have to watch him closely, but that can work against them.
Lafai is so strong in the offloading game that defenders often watch and wait to see what he’s going to do. That enables Lafai to fool the defense and cross for the try and it’s no fluke to see his career flourishing for the Dragons.
He’s currently $21 with bookmakers and we’re expecting Lafai to score at some stage on Friday night.
Sharks first try-scorer market and tips
The depth of the Sharks is evident this week and the loss of Tony Williams shouldn’t affect them too much.
The Sharks have announced an extended bench which included Chris Heighington, Sam Tagatese, Daniel Mortimer and Edrick Lee – who in their own right could make the starting side in many other NRL teams.
The Sharks boast an impressive line up and 12 of the 13 starting players have scored this season, but we’ve picked out the players which are likely to show up against the Dragons.
1. Valentine Holmes – $12
2. Sosaia Feki – $9.50
3. Jack Bird – $15
4. Ricky Leutele – $15
5. Gerard Beale – $9
6. James Maloney – $20
7. Chad Townsend – $31
8. Andrew Fafita – $26
9. Jayden Brailey – $31
10. Matt Prior – $36
11. Luke Lewis – $17
12. Wade Graham – $17
13. Paul Gallen – $31
The only player that hasn’t scored for the Sharks this season is Chad Townsend, but we think that could change this week.
Townsend will be keen to show NSW selectors his talents after having only a moderate performance for City against Country on Saturday night, and what better way to impress than scoring a try.
Townsend does have the ability to score and he has a good enough running game to take advantage of that. Halves partner James Maloney has scored three times this season doing just that and Townsend could take a leaf out of his book.
The bookies are offering $31 which is well worth taking.
Sosaia Feki has scored three tries from seven games this season and he’s the current $9.50 second-favourite at Sportsbet to score first.
Feki has all the talent to continue scoring tries and being a winger for the Sharks has its advantages. The wingers get good ball from the quality halves and we’re expecting the likes of Feki to continue reaping the rewards.
There are many try-scoring threats for the Sharks, but punters should find value with both Townsend and Feki.
Dragons vs. Sharks game tip
It’s tough to go past the Sharks lineup and we’ll side with bookmakers on this one.
The Sharks have a quality outfit top to bottom and there are no weak links. The Dragons are injury plagued at all the wrong positions and despite a good start to the season, they’ll likely find it tough to hold out the Sharks.
The head-to-head odds are a touch short, but they will be used in NRL multi-bets this weekend and we think it’s a good bet.
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