Manly the benchmark for NRL Dragons - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly the benchmark for NRL Dragons

By Steve Jancetic 22/05/2008 06:11:20 PM Comments (0)

Having humbled premiers Melbourne last weekend, St George Illawarra know a win at 'Fortress Brookvale' on Friday night will prove their battering of the Storm was more than just a false dawn.

The Dragons' NRL clash with Manly has taken on 'season-defining' proportions for the red and whites as they look to do the double on last year's grand final combatants in consecutive weeks.

Little was made of St George Illawarra's resounding 36-12 win over Melbourne on Saturday night given the undermanned Storm were without nine of their best players and coach Craig Bellamy due to Origin commitments.

But a win over a full strength Sea Eagles side riding high in second spot on the ladder is more likely to make other sides in the competition raise a glance in the Dragons' direction.

"Melbourne weren't at full strength last week, we know that," Dragons backrower Ben Creagh said.

"They weren't easy, but they didn't have the Cameron Smiths or all their other good players, so it's going to be a tougher game this week and we know that."

The Dragons' three wins this season have come against sides currently in the top four - Gold Coast, the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne - with the second placed Sea Eagles the last piece in the puzzle.

Three of their five losses are against teams running tenth or worse, including the 14th placed Bulldogs and second last North Queensland.

"We lost to Cronulla by one point, we lost to Parramatta by one point - you win those two games everyone's saying how great you're going ... you need to win close games," coach Nathan Brown said.

"We had a period there where we lost four games by a total of 13 points - those games were there for us to win.

"Now we go to Brookvale and play Manly who are obviously going really well and are pretty much full strength, it's going to be a good test.

"We showed against the Roosters and Gold Coast ... when we do put our right foot forward and we get the basics going pretty well that we can do well."

Of course much of the Dragons' hopes of causing an upset rest on NSW trio Mark Gasnier, Matt Cooper and Ben Hornby all backing up, with only Cooper in doubt after aggravating a back injury which sidelined him earlier in the season.

Chase Stanley will come into the centres if Cooper is ruled out.

Manly have put together the quietest four-match winning streak imaginable to move into the top two, and with Brett Stewart the only Origin representative in the side, they are sure to be ready to go against the Dragons.

While changes to the NSW side for game two are unlikely, Manly duo Brent Kite and Jamie Lyon will no doubt be keen to remind selectors they're still in the mix for the return bout with a big game against high profile opposites Jason Ryles and Gasnier respectively.

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