St George Illawarra Dragons Vs Penrith Panthers
UOW Jubilee Oval
4 March 2017, 4:30pm (AEDST)

This match on paper describes a club in “a building phase” against a team that has come through this process and is tipped by many to be in the Top 4 come round 26.

The Dragons are under a lot of pressure this year again and they haven’t had a chance to touch a footy. They are slowly getting better however, but the concern is still an appropriate halves pairing for Widdop and a hooker than conforms to the coaches plays. They have recruited an experienced Half in J. McCrone, 29 years old, with 150 games to his name, however he’s only player 15 games in the last two years. The Dragons have a live wire by the name of J. Field on the bench, who has some high praise coming through the junior ranks. We are unsure how McGregor, will use him during this game, but if McCrone isn’t playing well, we hope for the Dragons supporters J. Field gets a good run. C. McInnes is the newly appointed Hooker and potentially could play the 80 minutes, with 58 games under his belt, this will be a big ask against a very big Panthers pack, he may get a rest when J. Field comes on and possibly goes to hooker or pushes McCrone to hooker.
The positives for the Dragons is their front row forwards, increased by the purchase of P. Vaughan in the off season with their second row and lock is extremely solid. With NSW representative T. Frizell, hard hole running J. Thompson and J.D.Belin who had a break out year in 2016, really held the Dragons together last year. A massive test, which we are unsure they can hold off this impressive Panther team.

The Panthers announced their arrival last year, with an all round team performance which took them above all expectations barring their own belief. They have maintained their spine and managed to sigh J. Tamou which adds another dimension to this already impressive forward pack. Underrated by only people outside the club, P. Wallace, swallowed his pride and moved into the Hooker position last year and flourished. His experienced decision making helped the likes of Cleary and Moylan to really tear teams apart. Another “surprise” was T. Peachey and his role in the team, which varied as required and there is an expectation now that he will continue with his slicing runs currently in the centre position.
They will be missing Mansour, but welcome back, New Zealand international D. Whare. Having played only two games last year, he’s hoping to regain his form that he is more than capable of and his presence will only enhance our next two players, M. Moylan and N. Cleary. What can be said about M. Moylan that hasn’t already, in 2016 he had 21 Try assists in 21 games with an average of 115m per game. His pass selection was dynamic and criticism over his defence was eroded away with great tackles and reads in defence. The sky is the limit for him and the young N. Cleary. With 15 games under his belt, many a new half back don’t have the confidence to direct season veterans. But right from the get go, he was strong willed and didn’t hide from his jobs on the field. Like Moylan, he stormed onto the scene and has gone above expectations, adding another string to his young bow was his goal kicking nailing 53 from 66, once again demonstrating his ability at his young age.

With all these players and expectations the only way we see Penrith losing if they get too far ahead of themselves. On paper they cover the Dragons in all positions and it should be a victory to start off the season.
By the History books, it reads in their last 5 games: 3 wins Penrith to 2 wins St George, being the last two times these teams played. The last time they played at Jubilee Oval, Penrith won 19-0 back in round 11, 2013.
The weather is an interesting aspect, Sydney has coped a belting and we have seen with the Bulldogs Vs Storm game and Souths Vs Tigers games. This will keep the game closer than we think and ball handling will be something we can’t predict. Something in contribution to the weather is the Dragons inability to score large points Vs Penrith. Their last 6 game totals are: 14,19,4,14,10 and 0.

Free Tip:
Totals – St George Team Total 1
UNDER 15.5 $1.95 (William Hill)

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