NRL Round 9 – Match 1 Preview: Manly Sea Eagles v St George Illawarra Dragons

After the first two big representative games of the season play out on Friday night, two impressive NRL teams will be playing an important match on Saturday when the Manly Sea Eagles host the St George Illawarra Dragons at Brookvale Oval.

The Dragons have been nothing short of brilliant over the first eight rounds this year, securing themselves seven classy wins so that they sit proudly at the top of the Ladder with 14 competition points.

There is no doubt about the Dragons’ ability, but what is being questioned is how Bennett’s team will go as the representative season kicks into gear and some of his key players begin to feel the strain.

On Saturday night St George will be missing Beau Scott out for four to six weeks after straining his right knee in the Dragons big win against the Sharks last week, while a number of star players will be backing up after the Aus v NZ test match and City v Country game on Friday night and will need to regroup quickly to play their best on Saturday.

The Dragons have Brett Morris and Micheal Weyman in the Kangaroos and Jason Nightingale playing for New Zealand, while Ben Creagh and Dean Young have been selected to play in the Country Origin team.

A number of the Sea Eagles boys are playing rep too on Friday night, namely skipper Jamie Lyon, Josh Perry and Anthony Watmough for the Kangaroos and Kieran Foran and Steve Matai for NZ  in Friday night’s test. Lyon is an instrumental player obviously and how he plays on Saturday will make a big difference to Manlys chances.

Manly have had some nice wins of their own this year and are currently at number three on the Ladder following their victory ahead of the Rabbitohs in Round 8.

The Sea Eagles, however, have a bad habit of fading in the final 40 and nearly giving away big leads. Last week, for example, at one point they lead 30 – 6 ahead of South Sydney, but by the end they only won 30 – 22. This is dangerous in any match, especially so when facing a team as professional as St George.

There is the added pressure on the Sea Eagles to win here or face falling out of the top four on the ladder and they will be playing tough because of this. To win here they have to get their penalty count down and be more particular with their handling of the ball.

St George walked all over Manly last time they met thrashing them 48 – 18 in July last year. But the Sea Eagles have a certain air of confidence about them at the moment and are at Brookvale where they play best.

This match will come down to which team can back up best following Friday night’s rep games and we think, despite Manly’s home ground advantage, it will be the Dragons; they are just too good.

Current Head-To-Head Odds: Sea Eagles $2.40 – Dragons $1.58 Ladbrokes.com.au

Round 9 Sea Eagles Team:

1. Ben Farrar 2. Michael Robertson 3. Jamie Lyon (c) r. Steve Matai 5. Tony Willimas 6. Kieran Foran 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Jason King (c) 9. Matt Ballin 10. Josh Perry 11. Anthony Watmough 12. Shane Rodney 13. Glenn Stewart

Bench: 14. Joe Galuvao 15. Brent Kite 16. Matt Cross 17. Chris Bailey

Round 9 Dragons Team:

1. Darius Boyd 2. Brett Morris 3. Beau Scott 4. Matt Cooper 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Jamie Soward 7. Ben Hornby (c) 8. Dan Hunt 9. Luke Priddis 10. Michael Weyman 11. Neville Costigan 12. Ben Creagh 13. Dean Young