Welcome to the last round of the 2011 NRL regular season competition. This week starts on Friday with the 6th placed Dragons hosting the Panthers who are in 11th at WIN Stadium. The Dragons finally snapped up their losing streak and stopped the buck at 5 against the Warriors in a come from behind win, 26-22. Funnily enough the Panthers also snapped a 5 match losing streak; their win was against much lesser opposition, the Raiders. The Panthers only managed to get up by a grand total of 1.
Both clubs are coming off wins but they are both heavily out of form. The Panthers have got nothing to look forward to though and the Dragons are playing in the finals so a win here is critical to their chances of having an impact in September and possibly October.
WIN Jubilee is a bit of a sanctuary for Red V members and the players alike. Against the Panthers they have only lost once, this being their most recent encounter in Round 17 of 2010 with the Panthers getting up by 4.
The Dragons were very evenly matched with the Warriors last Sunday. One of the only differences being 2 penalty goals kicked by Soward. The only other difference I can think of would be the fact that once the Dragons got the lead they did not lose it.
This is definitely an improvement on previous weeks for the Dragons, but is it enough to convince the faithful they have a chance in 2011 or are they still clutching at straws? If it’s the latter they would have to do a pretty good job on the Panthers to convince the doubters.
The Dragons look like they will have the same line up 1 through to 17 as last week, and this is their best team they could field with no injuries to starting players. One thing is for sure, if they don’t do anything in 2011 there is no excuse as it come downs to a lack of heart.
The Dragons have a good team with no critical injuries of recent, how are the Panthers fairing? Well they are having a shocking run. They have far from the highest amount of injuries that I have seen this year, but the cost and talent of the sidelined players is right up there; Gordon, Jennings, Civoniceva, Tahu and Waterhouse. Thank God that their best player of 2011, Luke Lewis, is coming back from injury.
So it is up to the Panthers to win without almost all of their marquee players, and to get this win at a Stadium that they have only been able to get up once in the clubs history. Expect this to be a blow out for the Dragons.
To further compound the fact the Panthers will struggle was mentioned earlier, they have nothing more to play for in 2011. They are not a chance of making the 8 and they are high enough to have already avoided the wooden spoon. Expect mediocre from a mediocre team.
The Dragons have so much riding on this and such a strong line up I fail to see how they could win by anything less than 13 points. They could take 1 pointers from 20m out every time they get in the opp. Red zone and still get up by 13.
The Dragons are very short favourites here and are paying $1.17 for the H2H. As I mentioned the 13+ is definitely on the cards and will give the Dragons a good run into the finals. This option is paying $1.75.