The last of the four first week finals has the ladder topping Dragons host a home game showdown against the eighth-ranked Sea Eagles at WIN Jubilee Stadium on Sunday arvo.
There are plenty of Manly doubters out there, the Sea Eagles only just sneaking into September footy after losing their last two games of the season against the Roosters and the Bulldogs.
As such they are the long-shot Premiership chance with Sportsbet paying $17 for them to make the final.
It is hard to see the out-of-sorts Sea Eagles getting enough points to outscore the clinical Dragons here, especially looking at the host of stars they are forced to play without.
Manly have lost Jason King and Steve Matai, both on suspension after two nasty high tackles in their game against Canterbury last week. These two players have been instrumental in the games the Sea Eagles have won this year, so this is a huge blow.
They also have a huge list of injured players that have been named to play but could struggle to stay on the field including skipper Jamie Lyon (ankle) and Kieran Foran (shoulder).
Meanwhile, St George were able to rest a few last week and still easily win against the Rabbitohs and will welcome back Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby, Dean Young and Jeremy Smith here making them even more dangerous.
History is also against the Sea Eagles as they haven’t been able to beat the Dragons at home since 2003.
Also interesting to note that the last finals game the St George Illawarra ‘chokers’ won was back in 2006 against Manly, when they kept them scoreless 28 – 0.
No surprises then that the Dragons are the hot favourites with Sportsbet.com.au currently paying $1.16 for a home side victory while the visitors have drifted out to $5.25.
Presenting little in the way of exciting plays or attack and more often than not losing steam in the second half and giving away a halftime advantage plenty of times this year, there will only be the most devoted Manly fans backing them in this one.
Expect the Dragons to win and win big giving them a week off before charging into the third week of the finals, St George further boosted by the fact that they escaped another clash against their bogey side, Canberra.
Footy Tip of the Match: Dragons to win by 19+ points – check odds at Sportsbet
Current Head-to-Head Odds:
Dragons $1.16 – Sea Eagles $5.25 Ladbrokes.com.au
NRLleague Footy Tip of the Match:
The last finals match the Dragons won was back in 2006 when they thrashed Manly 28 – 0. We are tipping another big victory for St George here and have our money on them to win by 19+ points at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Finals Week 1 Dragons Team:
1. Darius Boyd 2. Brett Morris 3. Mark Gasnier 4. Matt Cooper 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Jamie Soward 7. Ben Hornby 8. Neville Costigan 9. Dean Young 10. Michael Weyman 11. Beau Scott 12. Ben Creagh 13. Jeremy Smith
Bench: 14. Nathan Fien 15. Trent Merrin 16. Matt Prior 17. Jarrod Saffy
Reserves: 18. Nick Emmett 19. Kyle Stanley 20. Jon Green 21. Luke Priddis
Finals Week 1 Sea Eagles Team:
1. William Hopoate 2. Michael Robertson 3. Jamie Lyon 4. Ben Farrar 5. Tony Williams 6. Kieran Foran 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Brent Kite 9. Matt Ballin 10. Josh Perry 11. Anthony Watmough 12. Joe Galuvao 13. Chris Bailey
Bench: 14. Matt Cross 15. V. Mauro 16. George Rose 17. T. Seu Seu
Reserves: 18. Jamie Buhrer 19. M. Oldfield