NRL Round 22 - Match Preview

St. George Illawarra Dragons v Brisbane Broncos @ WIN Stadium

The Broncos head to a wet Wollongong in desperate need of a win on Thursday Night against the struggling Dragons. The Broncos have had a spectacular fall from grace losing 7 from their past 9 games, in the process sliding to 6th on the NRL ladder. Wayne Bennett's men will now be simply looking to solidify their suddenly teetering Top 8 position as a raft of challengers start to emerge from the pack. The Dragons have lost 4 straight and any faint finals hopes they still cling to will be extinguished with another loss here. 

 The Broncos will be boosted significantly with the return of star trio Josh McGuire, Sam Thaiday and Matt Gillett coming into this crunch encounter. During their alarming form of late the Broncos have rarely been able to call upon a full strength line up however they are as close as they could be to getting all their troops back on the park here. With the Dragons losing Tyson Frizell and Joel Thompson to suspension surely the experienced Broncos pack must sniff a chance to dominate through the middle of the field here. With plenty of rain around, that may prove a sizeable advantage to the Broncos. With 3 of their last 4 matches at home the Broncos can lay some sort of platform for the run home with a victory tonight. There Top 4 chances appear buried and whilst a win is all that they want tonight no matter how ugly it remains a big question mark whether they can make any sort of title challenge from the back of the field in the finals. 

 The Dragons put in a much more spirited and typically aggressive performance last week in going down 13-10 to the Bulldogs. While they only managed 2 tries the Dragons were bought down agonisingly short of the line on a few occasions by desperate last ditch Bulldogs defence. However Without Dugan, Frizell and Thompson The Dragons really lose some punch and strike power heading into this game. It will be up to the much maligned star halves pairing of Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop to orchestrate and create a threat to a Broncos defensive line up that is far from the brick wall it appeared to be throughout 2015 and in the first 2 months of this season. The Saints have a good record in Wollongong and may relish the slippery conditions as they are a side that loves getting into the grind of a low scoring struggle. 

 Verdict - I was all set to tip the Dragons here. The Broncos are going terrible and the Saints had many more positives in their performance last week then Brisbane. However with 3 key inclusions for Brisbane and 2 key suspensions for the Dragons I am tipping the Broncos with very little conviction. Both sides are really struggling for confidence and I think in the wet this could be a fairy ugly game. Broncos by 2.