NRL Round 17 – Match 5 Preview: St George Illawarra Dragons v Penrith Panthers

The final game of Round 17 will play out on Monday night in the blockbuster clash of the week, when the Dragons host the Panthers at WIN Jubilee Stadium.

The number one team in the competition play the number two in what could very well be a preview of this year’s Grand Final if St George and Penrith keep going the way they have been lately.

The Dragons have been the undisputed leaders of the season so far and are sitting pretty at the top of the ladder with 12 wins and 26 competition points. The Panthers are hot on their tail, however, on 24 competition points. Could this be Penrith’s comeback year?

St George come into this match in great form, coming off four successive wins including their dominant 34 – 10 victory ahead of the Tigers last week. The Dragons burned the number three team in the comp and will be looking to do the same to the number twos and put to bed any dreams they are entertaining of taking that number one spot off them.

But with Penrith also coming off a recent string of wins, three in a row including their huge 40 – 22 win ahead of the Sea Eagles last round, this will be an interesting showdown.

Both teams have plenty of points in them so it should be a thrilling, high-scoring affair. Origin plays an interesting part in this one too. The Dragons lose Darius Boyd, Neville Costigan, Brett Morris and Beau Scott, and also have Michael Weyman missing after he was suspended for a nasty spear tackle during the Tigers game last week. This weakens St George considerably.

The Panthers are missing some of their instrumental players too with Petero Civoniceva back in his Marron jersey, Michael Jennings called into the Blues to replace the injured Matt Cooper, and Michael Gordon and Luke Lewis also away in the NSW camp. They are also without one of their leading kickers Luke Walsh due to injury.

Whereas the Dragons have plenty of talent as back up, Jennings and Gordon have been instrumental in a lot of what the Panthers have done right so without them they are likely to struggle a bit. Because of this Penrith are the current $2.75 underdogs with Ladbrokes.com.au at the moment, while St George are the pronounced favourites currently at $1.45 for a win.

With Jamie Soward again ignored by Origin selectors, he will be on board for the Dragons and should lead them to victory. And after the big news throughout the week that St George have signed Mark Gasnier, returning to the NRL, they have named him as a reserve in their extended 19 man squad.

Current Head-to-Head Odds:

Dragons $1.45 – Panthers $2.75 Ladbrokes.com.au

Round 17 Dragons Team:

1. Jason Nightingale 2. Michael Lett 3. Kyle Stanley 4. Matt Prior 5. Kalifa Faifai-Ioa 6. Jamie Soward 7. Ben Hornby 8. Jon Green 9. Luke Priddis 10. Ricky Thorby 11. Jeremy Smith 12. Ben Creagh 13. Dean Young

Bench: 14. Michael Greenfield 15. Trent Merrin 16. Nick Emmett 17. Jarrod Saffy

Reserves: 18. Jake Marketo 19. Mark Gasnier

Round 17 Panthers Team:

1. Lachlan Coote 2. David Simmons 3. Brad Tighe 4. Adrian Purtell 5. Sandor Earl 6. Travis Burns 7. Wade Graham 8. Tim Grant 9. Kevin Kingston 10. Matthew Bell 11. Frank Pritchard 12. Trent Waterhouse 13. Joseph Paulo

Bench: 14. Masada Iosefa 15. Gavin Cooper 16. Nathan Smith 17. Sam McKendry

Reserve: 18. Frank Puletua