The Dragons have found a new lease of life under care-taker Coach Paul McGregor and have won four of their last five including a strong win over Melbourne (24 – 12) and a hard fought victory over the Cowboys (27 – 24) in their past two matches.
The string of wins have seen the Dragons climb to ninth on the table but being tied with four other teams on 20 competition points, they must keep on winning and will face a tough test here against Manly.
Five-eight Benji Marshall is improving with every game and his combination with halves partner Gareth Widdop, is shaping as one of the most formidable in the competition.
Another significant contributor to the Dragons improved form has been the move of Josh Dugan to the centres. He has scored five tries in his last three appearances for the club. He has been named in the centres again for the clash after missing the round 17 clash due to Origin.
The Dragons have a favourable run home for the remainder of the season, facing only two sides in the current top eight from their seven remaining games after this one so a win here could really set the Dragons up for a big finish to the season.
After a disappointing loss at ANZ Stadium against an undermanned Canterbury, the Sea Eagles were back to their best last Friday night at Brookvale, handing the Tigers a 40 – 8 hiding.
The Sea Eagles haven’t been as deadly on the road this year though and have lost four of their last five – Tigers, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canterbury. The only win on the road since round 4 has been over the struggling Sharks.
They’ll need to pack a better performance than what they have showed away from home in the past as they take on an improving Dragons side, looking to make it three straight wins at home.
To help them find that form, Anthony Watmough returns as does Jorge Taufua – who has been in good try-scoring form.
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HEAD TO HEAD
In seven games played since 2010, the Dragons hold the advantage 4 – 3 after Manly won the last two clashes by 12 and 6 points, the latter when played at Win.
That was the first win at Win for Manly in six appearances and it was hard fought victory.
Manly have the class and on paper, should win comfortably, but there’s enough in the stats and the Dragons current form compared to Manly’s away record this year, to take a close look at the price on offer about the Dragons – or the line at least.
Expect a close game here than what the current market suggests.
DRAGONS: Adam Quinlan, Charly Runciman, Josh Dugan, Gerard Beale, Jason Nightingale, Gareth Widdop, Benji Marshall, Ben Creagh, Mitch Rein, Michael Cooper, Leeson Ah Mau, Joel Thompson, Jack de Belin. Interchange: Bronson Harrison, Shane Pumipi, Will Matthews, Jack Stockwell.
MANLY: Brett Stewart, Jorge Taufua, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, Peta Hiku, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Starling, Matt Ballin, Brenton Lawrence, Anthony Watmough, Jamie Buhrer, Tom Symonds. Interchange: Jesse Sene-Lefao, James Hasson, Jason King, Dunamis Lui.