About a month ago this clash would have Rugby League fans gagging and drooling all over the place. But as each week passed the anticipation for a top of the table clash seems to have fizzled, and is now starting to look like a bit of a joke. The Storm are doing their part, they have won 11 in a row and lost just 3 all year! The Dragons, sadly, have only managed 2 from their last 10 and have lost 4 on the trot.
This could be the nail in the coffin for the Dragons. A loss here and their confidence will be at rock bottom. A big loss and they will have no confidence to have at rock bottom. Luckily for them the Storm will be missing essential half back Cooper Cronk for the next 3 weeks. Unluckily for them they have Gasnier coming back to move Kyle Stanley to the bench, who was probably the Dragons best player last week.
This is the first time that the Storm are hosting the Dragons at AAMI park, with all bar 1 of the previous home games played at “The Graveyard”, aka Olympic Park. The Storm have won 9 of the 10 home games played against the joint venture, and in total have only lost 6 of 24.
No Injuries to Squad
The Storm have extended their streak to 11 in a row and this week will be aiming to equal their club record of 12. This is a tough assignment with a full strength Dragons this week, and it gets tougher if they want to better the record as they face a full strength Eagles next week (assuming no injuries this week). Yes that’s right, they have to play the 2 best Sydney clubs in successive weeks to beat their current record of 12 in a row. This is a tough ask for the Storm considering Cronk will be missing for both. Even if they can’t achieve this feat it is still an impressive run.
The Storm remind me a lot of the Green Bay packers of the 2010-2011 NFL season. They had 17 injured players and were still able to win the Super bowl. The storm have had a significant amount of injuries all year and have still been able to keep on winning. Their form and confidence is second to none and it will take an outstanding performance from any team to stop them on their road to the Grand Final.
Over the last 10 weeks the Dragons have transformed from a team eyeballing back to back grand finals to a team that looks like they couldn’t care less. In some of their losses they appear to have put in the effort, but appearances can be deceiving. There are 2 areas that the Dragons could easily fix up, and once they do they can once again be considered a threat. Lets take a look at these 2;
– 52 of the 69 points they have scored in the last 4 rounds have been in the first half. This means that they have only scored 17 (25%) of their total points in the second half. This is allowing the opposition to either get back in the game or run away with it.
– The Dragons have had stonewall defence for the last 2 years and a lot have teams have found this impenetrable. I remember the Cowboys had 5 consecutive sets against the Dragons on their own try line and couldn’t come up with points. A similar but more impressive feat was achieved against Manly not so long ago, with 6 sets in a row. In their last 4 matches they have averaged 3.25 Line Breaks against them. Compare this to a string of 4 wins in a row earlier this year at 1.75 and you can see that it has almost doubled.
If the Dragons can fix these 2 areas of their game they are once again a threat for the finals. I couldn’t pick a better time to do it than against the current favourites for the Silverware.
The Dragons have been written off for this match as a result of their recent form. I would like to think that they can surprise everyone with a win over the Storm, and with a full playing roster against a depleted Storm they have no excuses not to. I am tipping against the grain and going to get on the Dragons.