Widdop is earning his paycheck as of late at the Dragons. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au
Dragons v Cowboys
WIN Jubilee Stadium
Saturday July 5 – 5:35 PM (AEST)
Benji Marshall is beginning to find his feet back in the NRL. His last two years were below par at best, and his recent stint in Rugby was an utter failure, so there was a lot of pressure on him to deliver when he signed with the St George-Illawarra Dragons back in May. But after a slow start, his performance against the Sharks a month ago showed signs that goods things were around the corner. It’s bad news for the North Queensland Cowboys , who not only struggle to win away from home, but also struggle without skipper Johnathan Thurston.
Against Melbourne on Monday night, the Dragons put on their best performance of the season. They were dominant all over the park, and gave the Storm little opportunities. Marshall may have been wearing the No.7, but it was Gareth Widdop who directed the team around the field. He continued to pop up at the right place at the right time, and hand off the ball that either put someone into space or over the try line. If Widdop and Marshall can continue to gel, Big Red V supporters might just have a reason to dream. With both Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin heading into Origin camp, coach Paul ‘Mary’ McGregor has been forced to make some changes. Peter Mata’utia replaces Dugan at centre in jersey No.14, with Reg Gasnier's No.3 jersey being retired for this match. Dylan Farrell and Dan Hunt have both been named on an extended bench.
It’s a tall order for the Cowboys on Saturday night. So far in 2014, they have not won away from home. Add to that their poor record without Thurston, and it looks like it might be a long night for the visitors. Last week against the Rabbitohs they were so clinical. JT may have been steering the ship, but the forwards dominated the middle in every aspect. They were solid in defence, and constantly delivered quick play-the- balls to put the Bunnies on the back foot. If they are any chance of walking away with this one, they need to perform like that again. Mid-season signing Tautau Moga will make his club debut in the centres, with Matthew Wright shifting to fullback and Michael Morgan moving to halfback to cover for JT. Ashton Sims will start in the front row for James Tamou, who is on Origin duty. Sam Hoare and Ben Spina both have been named on an extended bench.
Straight away the home-ground advantage puts the Dragons on the front foot. They obviously love to play at WIN Jubilee, always lifting when they run out onto the iconic field. Origin is bad timing for the Cowboys, who need to find a way to win away from home, if they want be playing finals footy in September.
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