Thu, May 23, 8:33pm by Rob Sheeley
Match: St. George Illawarra Dragons vs Penrith Panthers – NRL Round 11
When/Where: 5:30pm Saturday, 25th May at WIN Jubilee Oval
AG Recommended Betting Site: www.IASbet.com
After a wonderful win in Wollongong, the Dragons are back to their Kogarah base this week to do battle with the men from the mountain, the Penrith Panthers. This looks a terrific clash on paper. Both sides are on eight competition points, both coming off convincing wins and both with an air of confidence surrounding them in light of their recent form.
The Dragons celebrated the debut of NRL miscreant Josh Dugan with an emphatic 32-12 win over the Eels last Saturday night. It was the first win for a month for the twelfth placed side and a much needed return to the winners circle. They remain relatively unwanted in premiership markets at $67.
Penrith have produced one of the biggest form reversals in a long time during the last two weeks. They proved that their win over the Storm was no fluke by defeating the Warriors by the biggest winning margin of the season, 62-6. All of a sudden, the Panthers find themselves in tenth place and just one win away from the top eight despite being $151 title hopes.
Matt Cooper returns at centre for the Dragons, this will see Matt Prior drop to the bench. Mitch Rein is also back at hooker, with Cameron King going to the interchange. Damien Cook drops out of the squad, with an extended bench still having five players on it at this stage.
1. Josh Dugan
2. Daniel Vidot
3. Chase Stanley
4. Matt Cooper
5. Jason Nightingale
6. Jamie Soward
7. Nathan Fien
8. Dan Hunt
9. Mitch Rein
10. Michael Weyman
11. Bronson Harrison
12. Ben Creagh (c)
13. Trent Merrin
14. Tyson Frizell
15. Matt Prior
16. Jack de Belin
17. Jack Stockwell
20. Cameron King
The Dragons were impressive last weekend in their 32-12 win over the Eels in Wollongong. Buoyed by the inclusion of new signing Josh Dugan the Dragons dominated from the outset. They looked a confident outfit at times and many are now saying they are a top eight proposition.
In Round 9, Dragons suffered a heart breaking one point loss (15-14) at the hands of the Titans. It appeared to be a game that they’d done enough to win, particularly if they had a little more luck with a few decisions from officials. They also may have been better served if they made some smarter decisions themselves at critical times.
Two weeks earlier they began their Round 8 clash against Manly in woeful form. They churned out a substandard ten errors in the first twenty eight minutes which was where the game was lost. After trailing 18-4 at half time the Dragons fought back to level the scores at 18-18 before being overpowered. Given a semi decent start, they may have got away with a victory.
In Round 7, the Dragons were given a stern reminder of the fact that they are still a fair way off the top teams in this year’s competition. They were completely outgunned by a red hot Roosters outfit by 34-10.
The confidence that the Dragons exuded during last week match gave off all the signs of a team on the up. The fact that they have players returning this week looks as though things should go well for the red and whites.
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The Panthers have only made one minor change for this weekend with Ryan Simpkins coming on to the bench for Sam Anderson.
1. Matt Moylan
2. Travis Robinson
3. Lewis Brown
4. Dean Whare
5. David Simmons
6. Isaac John
7. Luke Walsh
8. Nigel Plum
9. Kevin Kingston (c)
10. Tim Grant
11. Sika Manu
12. Matt Robinson
13. Adam Docker
14. James Segeyaro
15. Mose Masoe
16. Clint Newton
17. Ryan Simpkins
The Panthers have claimed the tag of the NRL’s most improved team in the past two weeks. They not only beat the Warriors last weekend, they annihilated them with an exclamation mark. The Panthers scored ten tries to one in a 62-6 rout of the New Zealand based team. Whilst the Warriors may not have been at their best, the Panthers capitalised on every opportunity they were afforded en route to their big win.
In Round 9, the Panthers stunned everyone when they defeated the Melbourne Storm. The Panthers scored three first half tries, none of which were converted and led 12-0. The Storm looked as though they were about to overrun the Panthers but they found plenty of fight and hung on by two points (12-10).
A week earlier in Round 8, the Panthers were on the end of a rugby league lesson at the hands of the Roosters. They went down 30-6 but that obviously provided them with a good insight as to how they should approach the top teams.
In Round 7, Panthers took on their western counterparts, the Eels, last Monday. They completely out enthused and outplayed Parramatta on their way to a 44-12 win. This was the Panthers first win since way back in Round 1.
There is certainly some momentum with the Panthers and this game will provide a good litmus test as to where they are at. The positive for them is that these successes have come despite many top line players being out through injury. Coach Ivan Cleary will certainly have a hat trick of wins in mind given the way his side has won their last two games.
On paper, the Dragons look to have a much more accomplished and experienced forward pack. Players the ilk of Weyman, Creagh, Merrin, Hunt and Prior cut an imposing figure. Yet the Penrith forwards have proven in the last two weeks that they mean business. It would be fair to assume that the Dragons can dominate this battle but the relatively unknown quantities in the Panthers side make it all the more intriguing.
The Panthers may have unearthed a future star in the form of winger Travis Robinson. Robinson has been elusive in the Panthers last two wins and knows his way to the line.
Isaac John took his first opportunity back in the NRL with both hands last week for the Panthers. The former Warrior who was coming off a stint in the English Super League scored three tries in his debut for the Panthers.
Josh Dugan wasted no time in exhibiting his talents for the Dragons in his debut last week. Dugan scored a double and looked dangerous on multiple occasions against the Eels. Don’t be surprised to see an encore performance here.
Trent Merrin has not only been one of the Dragons best forwards in 2013 but one of the form players in the NRL. It would not be a shock to see him donning a sky blue jumper next month. Merrin’s tough defence coupled with his great offloading in attack has been a highlight for the Dragons this year.
There’s no doubting that the Panthers have struck some form in the last fortnight and is their big test to consolidate those wins. The Dragons looked as good as they have all season last week and the fact that they are at home combined with their edge in experience makes them more appealing to me. Dragons by 10.
Head to Head Odds
Dragons – $1.45
Panthers – $2.85
Dragons 1-12 – $2.90
Dragons 13+ – $2.60
Panthers 1-12 – $4.25
Panthers 13+ – $7.00
Dragons – 6.5 – $1.91
Panthers + 6.5 – $1.91
The Dragons head to head price of $1.45 with IASbet.com may be a little skinny but is probably just acceptable. The margin bet of the Dragons 1-12 at $2.90 looks a little more inviting.
I like Jason Nightingale to score the first try of the match at $9.
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