Dragons to head to Brisbane house of horrors

BIG DAY: Corey Oates scores his fourth try on Sunday. Picture: AAP Image
BIG DAY: Corey Oates scores his fourth try on Sunday. Picture: AAP Image

ST GEORGE Illawarra will need to earn just the second finals win in Brisbane in the joint-venture's history to see week two finals action, after a volatile top eight found its final resting place on Sunday afternoon.

The Dragons put themselves in the box seat to host a sudden-death match in Sydney with their 24-14 win over Newcastle on Saturday, only for the Broncos to leapfrog them into sixth spot with their 48-16 win over Manly at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.

The win, and the margin, wasn't enough for the Broncos to leapfrog the Panthers into fifth spot – which would have effectively gifted the Dragons a Sydney final –  despite remarkably finishing with identical for and against.

The Panthers stayed in fifth spot having conceded less points through the season which will see the Broncos host Paul McGregor's men at their home fortress this Sunday.

It's a venue where the Dragons have only once tasted finals success, a 20-4 win the opening week of the 2006, and have lost their last 10 straight matches.

Current Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett wasn't immune to the hoodoo in his time as Dragons coach, having suffered straight sets finals exits at the venue in 2009 and 2011.

The Broncos will head into the match in red-hot form having knocked off the Rabbitohs and minor premiers the Roosters in their two outings prior to Sunday's thrashing.

The Dragons will no doubt be underdogs having won just three of their last nine games, but will be bolstered by the return of skipper Gareth Widdop from injury, with Euan Aitken (hamstring) and Jason Nightingale (elbow) outside chances of taking the park.

‘‘We get Gaz back next week, so our attack will improve straight away,” McGregor said.

“If we'd won last week he would've played [on Saturday] so he'll definitely be playing next week. We'd lost our opportunity to be in the top four so we didn't want to play him because of the position we would've finished regardless of the win or loss.

‘‘(Aitken is) a good chance, too. And Jase is a chance as well. We’ll find out a little bit more about them two guys later in the week but Gareth will do everything this week at training.’’