Warriors v Dragons: Schick Preview
Wed 17 May, 2017, 9:00am
By Corey Rosser, New Zealand Correspondent, NRL.com
Schick Hydro Preview: Warriors v Dragons
FMG Stadium Waikato
Friday, 8.00pm NZT, 6.00pm AEDT
Six days after suffering a spectacular second-half collapse against the Penrith Panthers, this Dragons side is almost certainly not the team the Warriors want to be meeting, while for St George Illawarra it's the chance to break a three-match losing streak.
The Red V have an excellent record against this Friday's opponents, and in 25 meetings against the Warriors the Dragons have won 80 per cent of the time.
After taking a 28-6 lead into the break last week the Warriors collapsed in embarrassing fashion to lose 36-28, but coach Stephen Kearney has resisted the urge to wield the selection axe.
An injury to Solomone Kata means Ken Maumalo comes in on the wing, with David Fusitua shifting to the centres, while Bunty Afoa starts at lock and Sam Lisone drops back to the bench.
Prop Ben Matulino will play his 200th NRL Telstra Premiership match while second-rower Bodene Thompson will celebrate his 50th for the club.
The Dragons meanwhile footed it with the Sharks for all but the final 10 minutes in an eventual 18-14 loss to the defending premiers, which sees them drop to fifth on the ladder.
Coach Paul McGregor has just the one forced change, which sees Taane Milne come into the centres for Euan Aitken (hamstring injury).
Why the Warriors can win: There weren't many positives in the end for the Warriors against the Panthers, but the way they played with the ball in the first 40 minutes is something they can build on. The Kiwi side scored five tries in the first stanza, despite having only 44 per cent of the ball in that time, with four line breaks to go with it. There were other good signs for Kearney's side in terms of their work on the ball, most notably five-eighth Kieran Foran's strong showing which included a try, a try assist and 40/20 kick.
Why the Dragons can win: St George Illawarra's forward pack is undoubtedly their major boast in 2017, while the Warriors' pack has been an area of concern from the get go. Despite the loss to the Sharks, the Dragons won the forward battle in convincing fashion last week, led by another huge effort from prop Paul Vaughan who had 188 metres on his own. Across the season St George Illawarra trail only the Brisbane Broncos in terms of the most metres gained, averaging 1650 per game, which is almost exactly 100 metres more than the Warriors' 2017 average.
The history: Played 25; Warriors 5; Dragons 20. Taking the field against the Warriors and leaving the stadium with two points is almost a tradition for the Dragons, with St George Illawarra having lost to the Kiwi side just once in their last 13 meetings. The Warriors and Dragons have met at FMG Stadium Waikato once before in a 2004 pre-season match, which the Dragons won 36-30.
What are the odds: St George Illawarra are the punters' pick according to Sportsbet, with twice the dollars invested on them in the head-to-head market, and more than three times the number of individual bets. Dragons 1-12 is the most popular winning margin and Nene McDonald is the best backed for first try scorer.
Match officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant referee: Peter Gough. Sideline officials: Russell Turner and Chris McMillan. Review official: Luke Patten. Senior review official: Jared Maxwell.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 6.00pm (AEDT). Sky Sports - Live coverage from 8.00pm (NZT).
NRL.com predicts: The Red V have lost three straight but their level of play has been higher than the Warriors' through that period, and they will likely arrive in Hamilton the more confident side. The Kiwi outfit can be expected to show vast improvement on last week, but across the 80 the Dragons' pack should prove too much for the Warriors to handle. Dragons by 10.