The opening match of Round 12 on Friday night has the competition leaders, St George Illawarra, hosting the Eels at WIN Stadium, an interesting game as last year’s Minor Premiers and the 2009 Premiership runners-up struggle with injury and pride after a hard week.
Both the Dragons and the Eels are coming off embarrassing losses from last round, the Dragons going down 14 – 22 to the Raiders after struggling without their big name Origin players, and Parramatta letting the struggling Sharks secure a 22 – 18 win ahead of them.
The Dragons have named all but one of their Blues players back in the line-up Friday night, with Darius Boyd, Brett Morris, Michael Weyman, Ben Creagh, Neville Costigan all set to return after NSW were defeated 24 -28 by QLD in game one. But with only a one night rest between hard-hitting matches, time will tell how the boys back up and whether they will have the energy to stop St George Illawarra from suffering two consecutive defeats.
In a major blow for the Dragons, one player not backing up from Origin after suffering a bruised hip is Matt Cooper, joining Dan Hunt on the sideline; Hunt ruled out for the season after hurting himself in the warm up before last week’s match.
The Eels were in red-hot form, seemingly back on track for the season after scoring four straight wins before they faced their bogey team, Cronulla.
This week they will be looking to atone for their second loss to the Sharks and fight back hard to keep their spot in the top eight, currently at number six on the ladder.
But a couple of the Eels players also have a very short turnaround after playing in Origin on Wednesday night, namely Jarryd Hayne who will be back in the No. 1 jersey for Parramatta after struggling a bit out on the wing for NSW.
Ladder position, venue and last week’s performances has the Dragons installed as the current favourites at $1.54 with Ladbrokes.com.au while the Eels are paying $2.50 for an upset.
It is not very often Bennett allows two consecutive losses, so St George Illawarra will be doing all they can to stop this and prove they can back up from rep footy successfully.
The Dragons will have to put a lid on Feleti Mateo and Nathan Cayless from the Eels, who have dominated in offloads leading to tries this season.
A hard one to pick as the injury issues the Dragons have are serious, but last week Jamie Soward and Jason Nightingale ensured St George fought right until the end, while Parramatta have a tendency to give it away in the final quarter.
The Dragons are far more consistent and competitive and thrive in the Friday night timeslot, and despite the injury and Origin issues, should prevail in this one.
Current Head-to-Head Odds: Dragons $1.54 – Eels $2.50 Ladbrokes.com.au
Round 12 Dragons Team:
1. Darius Boyd 2. Brett Morris 3. Beau Scott 4. Matt Cooper 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Jason Soward 7. Ben Hornby (c) 8. Matt Prior 9. Luke Priddis 10. Michael Weyman 11. Neville Costigan 12. Ben Creagh 13. Dean Young
Bench: 14. Jon Green 15. Jarrod Saffy 16. Trent Merrin 17. Michael Greenfield
Reserve: 19. Kyle Stanley
Round 12 Eels Team:
1. Jarryd Hayne 2. Luke Burt 3. Joel Reddy 4. Timana Tahu 5. Eric Grothe 6. Kris Keating 7. Daniel Mortimer 8. Nathan Cayless (c) 9. Jeff Robson 10. Fuifui Moimoi 11. Nathan Hindmarsh (c) 12. Ben Smith 13. Feleti Mateo
Bench: 14. Matt Keating 15. Tim Mannah 16. Justin Horo 17. Justin Poore
Reserve: Krisnan Inu