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St George Illawarra Dragons Vs Parramatta Eels
Sunday 6.30pm at WIN Stadium
Dragons Look For Dream Start To Season 2017 Against Resurgent Parramatta
After an upset win against Premiership heavyweights the Penrith Panthers last week, Dragons fans will be hoping for a similar performance against last start winners Parramatta Eels at Wollongong on Sunday night. With all three grades in action (Holden Cup, Intrust Super Premiership and First Grade) it should be a great day of rugby league on the South Coast.
St George Illawarra was very impressive with its forward pack monstering Penrith through the middle, whilst their crisp backline worked off this platform as it ran in seven tries.
Much had been made of the Dragons attack in 2016 and the first up win may have got the monkey off the back and given them more confidence going forward in attempting to regularly score more points.
With one of the most potent and powerful forward packs in the NRL, the Red V will again be using its big men to hammer the Eels into submission through the middle and then rely on the likes of live wire Josh Dugan, Gareth Widdop and Euan Aitken to run riot.
Parramatta were very impressive in their win away from home against Manly at Lottoland.
A good defensive display by the Sea Eagles denied the Eels more points but even so still managed to grind out a 20-12 win.
The halves combination of Clinton Gutherson and Corey Norman was brilliant and look for them to bring their attacking skills to Wollongong in an attempt to win their second game in a row.
The Eels have a young and exciting side that is full of points and vigor. Not to mention their strong defence which the Dragons will have to perform admirably if they want to break through for points.
Parramatta and St George Illawarra always put on a good show, will this be another one of those matches?
Last Meeting: Parramatta Eels 30 defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 18 at Pirtek Stadium, Round 25, 2016.
Parramatta have won the last four matches against the Red V, although all of those games were played at Pirtek Stadium.
There has only been five matches between the Dragons and the Eels played at Win Stadium since St George Illawarra’s inception in 1999. The Dragons have won three, Parramatta has won one and there has been one draw.
The Dragons got the win in the last game at WIN back in 2013 by the tune of 32-12 where Josh Dugan bagged a double in his Dragons debut.
Who To Watch: The way the Dragons will have success in this game and throughout the season is going to be via its forward pack. They have talent all over from prop to the backrow.
One player in the forward pack that can play multiple positions in iron man Jack De Belin.
De Belin muscled his way over for one of the tries of the match last week against Penrith in what was a superb show of strength and desire. JDB also got through his typical workload throughout the rest of the game by compiling 33 tackles, 17 hit ups for 133 metres, four offloads and six tackle busts in just 64 minutes.
His workload on the fringes of the ruck (including his ability to offload) as well as through the middle will be vital to the Dragons success.
As one of the best tacklers in the NRL, JDB will be called upon to chop down the Eels forward pack and bring pressure on the likes of Corey Norman and Bevan French who will be dangerous for the Eels on Sunday.
The aforementioned Bevan French made headlines last year with the Eels for his ability to find the try line on the wing. Now tasked with being Parramatta’s number 1 for the season, French’s attacking involvement will be vital to any success it tastes on Sunday evening.
French scored a try, made a line break and had seven tackle busts in his performance last week against Manly and if he can replicate that then he will have the Dragons in trouble.
Blessed with blazing speed and great awareness around the ball (in both attack and defense) French is one of the vital cogs in the Eels attacking spine.
Look for him to try and get heavily involved from the outset of this match either from kick returns or through his support play.
The Favourite: The Eels are slight favourites in this one despite being the away side.
The Tip: After seeing the way the Dragons played last week they look the goods to continue that good form. They always play well down in Wollongong (they won three of four games down there in 2016).
Their attack looks potent and their big forward pack will be a bridge too far for the Eels to deal with who are playing their second away game in a row. This will be a close clash though and will go right down to the wire.
Dragons by 2.