Reigning premiers Melbourne Storm will look to get their premiership defence off to the perfect start when they host St George Illawarra Dragons this afternoon. Join us for live scores and commentary from 3.00pm AEDT.
Melbourne yet again begin another season as premiership favourites after beating the Canterbury Bulldogs 14-4 in last year’s grand final.
It was a just reward for a club that has set new benchmarks for consistent excellence in the NRL and they will be heavily favoured to account for the Dragons today at their AAMI Park fortress.
The Storm already enter season 2013 on a high after winning the World Club Challenge in England in February.
In a tough contest, Melbourne beat the Leeds Rhinos 18-14 and should be physically ready to take on a tough Dragons side that will be very keen to rise to the occasion against the reigning premiers away from home.
If there is one area where Melbourne can be vulnerable, it is up front, so expect the Dragons to keep things tight up the middle by completing their sets and playing for territory during the opening exchanges.
On the few occasions the Storm tasted defeat last season, they usually found themselves significantly outmuscled by bigger forward packs.
The Dragons certainly have size on their side this afternoon and will cause Melbourne problems if Michael Weyman, Mitch Rein, Dan Hunt, Bronson Harrison and Ben Creagh play well upfront.
If the Dragons do find themselves winning the arm wrestle, it is imperative halves Jamie Soward and Nathan Fien keep the Storm pinned with their respective kicking games.
The Storm are masters of dictating the tempo of play when given field position and subpar performances from Soward in particular will go a long way to handing victory to Melbourne.
While the Dragons will certainly know what to do with the football early on, it is what they do without it that will determine if they can cause the upset today.
St George Illawarra (like most teams) will have its hands full trying to contain Storm quartet Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Gareth Widdop and Cooper Cronk.
Indeed stopping Smith, Slater, Widdop and Cronk from playing well in Melbourne ranks as the most difficult task to complete in the NRL.
The chemistry they share in attack is legendary and they invariably find a way to put any opposition to the sword when playing at home or away.
Regardless of the difficult task ahead, the Dragons do have an early opportunity to really gain momentum and confidence with a strong showing this afternoon.
With this in mind, expect the Dragons to give a solid account of themselves before eventually succumbing to the Storm in a tough contest.
Melbourne by 8.