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St George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla Sharks

Friday, May 12, 6pm (AEST), UOW Jubilee Oval, Sydney

The Dragons were dealt another blow over the representative weekend, with fullback Josh Dugan ruled out for three weeks due to a fractured cheekbone. He will join the injured Gareth Widdop on the sidelines and the Dragons’ ability to score points becomes seriously limited, despite currently scoring the most points in the competition, with an average of 25 points per game. The goal-kicking options also take a hit with both Dugan and Widdop sidelined, with centre Tim Lafai expected to take over the kicking duties. The Sharks are almost full-strength and will be looking to put a two-point gap between them and the Dragons on the competition ladder with a victory at Kogarah on Friday night.
The Dragons have won the last two and 12 of the last 17 against the Sharks. The Dragons grinded out a 16-10 victory in Round 3 this year at Cronulla, with Dragons centre Euan Aitken scoring a double.
After winning five straight, St George Illawarra have dropped their last two with a golden point loss to the Sydney Roosters and an embarrassment against Melbourne at home. The Saints have kept opposition teams to 13 or fewer in 6 of 9 matches this year. The Dragons have won both Kogarah games this year by 13-plus. Cronulla have been in good form of late with 5 wins in their last 6 matches with their only loss a surprise home defeat to the Titans. The Sharks have kept opposition teams to 18 points or fewer in every game since Round 2. Cronulla have scored more than 22 points just twice this year.
Key Matchup
Josh McCrone v Chad Townsend. McCrone needs to step up and take the pressure off the inexperienced Kurt Mann, who is playing in the halves alongside McCrone while Widdop remains sidelined. McCrone had a sensational game against Manly back in Round 6 and was steady against the Storm in Round 9. Consistsency has always been the issue for McCrone. Townsend had a strong game in the Round 9 win over the Tigers, which feature a try and try-assist. Townsend penned a new-deal at the club in the lead-up to the victory over the Tigers and will look to play with less pressure now that his future is sorted.
Stats That Matter
St George Illawarra are 6-3 ATS with a 5-4 over number while Cronulla are 4-5 ATS with a 7-2 under number. The Dragons have won the last two and 12 of the last 17 against Cronulla. Only 4 of the last 20 matches in the Southern Derby have topped 38 points. St George Illawarra have won four straight Derby clashes at Kogarah, the last three by margins of 13-plus. Home underdogs getting 8 or more are 72-42 ATS since 2008. The Saints have covered 10 of their last 14 at Kogarah with an average winning margin of 10.43. The Dragons have covered 4 of their last 5 as an underdog at Kogarah. Cronulla have not covered 5 of their last 6 as a favourite away from Shark Park.
Final Thoughts
The Wolf can’t ignore the losses of both Widdop and Dugan here. They are two crucial pieces to the Dragons’ spine and they’re going to need points to beat the Sharks, who play a similar style to the Dragons. As mentioned, the Sharks have kept opposition teams to 18 points or fewer in every game since Round 2 and will have too many points in them for the depleted Dragons.
How It’s Shaping Up
Cronulla by 4
Best Bet
St George Illawarra +8 ($1.91)

Other Recommended Bets
Cronulla by 1-6 ($5.50)

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