Warriors ready for 'blockbuster' against Dragons

Finding a way to stop St George Illawarra's all-star spine will be the first challenge for the Warriors in Friday night's NRL blockbuster.

Actually doing it will be even more difficult.

Traditionally, the words "blockbuster billing", "St George Illawarra" and "Warriors" haven't belonged in the same sentence.

The two clubs - or three if you include the four years of the Warriors' existence before St George and Illawarra merged - have made the finals in the same season just five times.

Nor have they ever met in a finals clash.

In simple terms, this makes Friday night's match the biggest ever played between the two sides.

And despite them sharing just one loss between them this year - in the third- placed Warriors' nine-point defeat to Brisbane last week - it's also potentially crucial to shaping their seasons.

Stephen Kearney's side have a difficult run ahead with clashes with Melbourne, the Wests Tigers and Sydney Roosters, and can ill-afford to hit that patch off two straight losses.

This has also historically been a defining point in the Dragons' season over the past few years.

The Red V's fall from the top of the ladder has started at around Anzac Day in two of the past three years, and coach Paul McGregor has already spoken at length about why he believes this year will be different.

Crucial to that is the Dragons' spine of youngster Matt Dufty, star recruit Ben Hunt, last year's Dally M five-eighth of the year Gareth Widdop and New South Wales State of Origin hopeful Cameron McInnes.

"They're probably the form spine of the competition," Kearney said.

"They're putting real pressure on opposition teams with the way they attack."

The Dragons have averaged a league-best 32 points a game over the first six rounds while Widdop leads the NRL for try assists and line-break assists.

At the back, Dufty's speed and step have brought him six tries, a figure bettered only by the eight of Warriors winger David Fusitu'a.

For Kearney, the best way to defend against the 22-year-old Dufty, who heads the NRL in line breaks, was to avoid giving him the ball. Failing that, stay switched on.

"We've seen what he's capable of," he said.

"We just have to make sure that, when he does carry the footy, we're all alert, because he catches the ball on one side of the field and he's on the other side of the park very quickly."