What you need to know: Round 9
Melbourne Storm v St. George Illawarra Dragons
Sunday, 30 April, 4pm
TV: GEM & Fox League (Ch. 502) from 4pm
Head-to-Head: Storm 23, Dragons 9, Draw 1
Last time we met: Round 15, 2016; Storm 10 def by Dragons 20 at WIN Stadium
Dragons No.1 attack
The best attack meets the best defence on Sunday. No team has scored more points this season than the Dragons. Paul McGregor’s men are averaging more than 25 points per game. That is an enormous
improvement on last year where they managed just 14 points per outing (ranked 14th). The performance of their halves combination is a clear reason for the turnaround with Gareth Widdop and Josh McCrone combining for 16 try assists in the opening eight weeks.
As good as the Dragons attack has been, it will be put to the test this Sunday. Their skipper and chief playmaker Gareth Widdop has been ruled out for the next six weeks with a knee injury. Widdop leads the Dragons in tries and try assists as well as line breaks and line break assists. The Englishman has also scored 19 more points than any other player in the competition so far this season. Former Storm player Kurt Mann has been named as his replacement at five-eighth, and will play in the No.6 for the first time in his career.
Suli on the road
Our Fijian Flyer has no trouble taking his try scoring ability across boarders. Vunivalu has scored four tries from his three away games this year, taking his tally to six for the season (ranked third in the NRL). In a further boost for Storm fans, Vunivalu also bagged a double during our previous visit to Wollongong last year.
Keeping it clean
All the talk following Storm’s loss to the Sharks was the team’s inability to hold onto the football. In that game Craig Bellamy’s team made an uncharacteristic 15 errors. However since then, they have made just 11 errors combined from their last two games. It is has been the key difference in recording back-to-back wins. For a team that finished last season with the fewest errors in the competition, it seems Storm has regained its efficiency mojo.
Emergency Services Cup
Melbourne Storm and the St George-Illawarra Dragons will continue their proud tradition of playing for the Emergency Services Cup when they take to the field on Sunday night. This is the ninth consecutive year Storm and the Dragons have played off for the trophy since the concept was first launched in 2009. The game is played in recognition of the Emergency Services personnel who dedicate themselves to protecting both the NSW and Victorian people.