Wednesday 21 March 2018 / 02:14 PM


St George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla Sharks – 6.00pm (AEST), Friday, May 12 @ UOW Jubliee Oval

The Storyline: Another instalment of one of the NRL’s fiercest local derbies, with both sides cruising along near the pointy end of the ladder with identical 6-3 records. The Dragons are looking to arrest a two-game slide, however, while fullback talisman Josh Dugan is again sidelined and Gareth Widdop is still out. The Sharks have been patchy in recent weeks but are virtually at full-strength.

The Stat: The Sharks are aiming to break a decade-long drought at Jubilee Oval, while the Dragons have won 12 of the last 17 derbies at all venues – including six of the last seven as the home team.

It’s a big game for: Paul Vaughan is a popular pick in many hypothetical NSW squads, but Jordan McLean’s selection in the Kangaroos’ squad suggests the Dragons prop is still down the rep pecking order. A big game opposite Sharks duo Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior would go a long way to securing an Origin debut – and giving the Saints a chance of an upset.

Last time they met: The Saints kick-started their early-season charge with a 16-10 away victory over the defending champs in Round 3.

The Verdict: There’s been so much to like about the Dragons’ work in 2017 – even in back-to-back losses to the Roosters and Storm – but it’s tough seeing them beating the top sides without Dugan and Widdop on deck. The Sharks need to be much better than they’ve shown in their last two outings, a loss to the Titans and a patchy win over a depleted Tigers side, but their class in the spine positions is a big advantage. Sharks by 12

Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs – 7.50pm (AEST), Friday, May 12 @ ANZ Stadium

The Storyline: The inner-city rivals are languishing in the bottom-four with just three wins from the opening nine rounds, and both will be hoping to use this match as a springboard to make something of their season.

The Stat: The Tigers are on a four-game winning streak against the Rabbitohs, scoring 30-plus points on each occasion.

It’s a big game for: The Farah-Tigers feud has dissipated somewhat now that Jason Taylor has left the joint venture, but the Rabbitohs rake will nonetheless want a big game against his former club after a horror Round 1 outing – and to push his rickety Origin barrow with only a couple of games left before squads are chosen for the series opener.

Last time they met: The Tigers were purring after a 34-18 romp in Round 1 that included some sparkling long-range tries. Bryson Goodwin scored a hat-trick for the beaten Rabbitohs, while Greg Inglis suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first half but was not hauled off the field until well after halftime.

The Verdict: Both sides have been generally terrible in 2017 despite some pockets of decent form. The Rabbitohs’ three-quarter line is awful, while the Tigers’ pack looks awfully thin with skipper Aaron Woods out injured. The result could hinge on the ability of out-of-sorts No.7s Adam Reynolds and Luke Brooks rediscovering some form, but despite Souths’ apparent advantage in the forwards, the nagging feeling is the game-breaking qualities of Tedesco and Moses can spearhead a fifth straight Tigers win over the Bunnies. Tigers by 2

[YouTube – NRL 2017]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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