St George Illawarra Dragons v Cronulla Sharks Friday, April 13, 7:50pm (AEST) WIN Stadium, Wollongong
The Dragons along with the Warriors are the only two undefeated sides through five rounds of the NRL, and with good reason. St George Illawarra is averaging over 30 points per game and is playing an exciting brand of football, with their spine and forward pack firing on all cylinders. The Dragons looked to have last week’s game in the bag before conceding a pair of late tries against the Rabbitohs. They held on for the win, but will need to play for 80 minutes against the Sharks if they want to do the double over them this year. The Sharks will have a few selection headaches if Josh Dugan makes his return from injury, with Matt Moylan having his best game in a Sharks jersey in the fullback position.
FormSt George Illawarra are the hottest team in the NRL, undefeated through five rounds. The Saints are conceding just 12ppg for the second best defence in the NRL while they are scoring 30.8ppg for the best attack. Three of their wins have been by 18-plus margins. Cronulla are 12th on the ladder with a 2-3 record. They have the second worst attack in the NRL while they have the seventh rated defence. Cronulla have not scored more than 16 all season but have conceded 20-plus in two of three at Shark Park.
Key MatchupJack de Belin v Paul Gallen: The Wolf is looking forward to this match-up more than most this weekend. Jack de Belin is the master of chopping down players in tackles and looks set for a NSW Origin berth this year. He’s an old school player, who is made for the Origin arena and would love nothing more than a points decision over Paul Gallen, who was one of NSW’s best over the years. It’s been a slow start to the NRL season for Gallen, with his minutes heavily reduced, but he played 71 minutes in last week’s loss to the Roosters and was the Sharks best forward alongside Andrew Fifita. Gallen offloaded at will and did plenty of hard work carting the ball up. Expect fireworks when de Belin and Gallen come face-to-face in Wollongong on Friday night, and The Wolf can’t wait!
Stats That Matter– St George Illawarra are 4-1 ATS with a 3-2 under record while Cronulla are 2-3 ATS with a 4-1 under number. – The Dragons hold a 20-19-1 all-time record over the Sharks. – St George Illawarra have won 13 of the last 19 though including three of the last four. – The teams met in Round 2 with the Saints grinding out a 20-16 win at Shark Park. – Low-scoring matches have been the order of play with 10 of the last 13 tallying 37 or fewer. – The Saints are 5-1 all-time against the Sharks in Wollongong. – The Dragons have covered six of their last nine in Wollongong. – The under is 8-2 in night games at Wollongong since 2014 while it is 8-3 when the Dragons are favoured. – The under is 31-16 since 2014 when the home team is riding a five-game win streak and 9-2 when that streaking team is favoured by less than a converted try. – Cronulla have covered 25 of their last 43 road games while they are 16-7 ATS (15-8 outright) with a 14-9 under record as a road underdog. – The Sharks are 5-1 ATS since 2015 as a road team after scoring 10 or fewer.
Final ThoughtsThe Wolf is expecting a similar game to the one that the Dragons and Sharks played in Round 2, with the Dragons grinding out a 20-16 win at Cronulla. The Dragons have now won 13 of the last 19 against the Sharks, including three of the last four. Dragons 1-12 is The Wolf’s recommended play here.
How It’s Shaping UpSt George Illawarra by 4
Recommended BetsBest: St George Illawarra 1-12 ($2.90) Value: St George Illawarra by 1-6 ($4.50) First Tryscorer: Jason Nightingale