Dragons v Roosters Preview
WIN Jubilee Stadium
Two teams in the midst of very different seasons come face to face and if you look at ladder position alone you could be forgiven for expecting a very large and possibly extremely entertaining Dragons victory in front of their home fans.
It is true they are currently running first compared to the Roosters who are anchored to 16th but fans of the tri-colours can at least take some confidence from a last-start victory.
The Roosters have had a rough time of it lately both on and off the field but a nice and timely seven-point win over Cronulla has helped to give them some momentum coming up against a St George Illawarra side searching for their first minor premiership.
The Dragons have plenty of momentum of their own, knocking off the Wests Tigers last weekend to remain on top of the pile although equal with the Bulldogs and Titans.
They lose Michael Weyman to injury; once again the big prop pushed himself into a position of prominence only for injury to pull him down a few pegs. His place is taken by Jon Green.
Neville Costigan has been moved from centre to lock with Matt Prior the latest in a line of second-row forwards to play centre for the side.
The new face on the bench will be young gun forward Trent Merrin.
The Roosters are presenting an unchanged line-up from the one that fell to the Sharks - including the duo of Jake Friend and Sandor Earl who have the spectre of off-field allegations hanging over their heads.
Watch out Dragons: Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce can certainly provide plenty of headaches for the strong Dragons defence if they don’t give him a big dose of respect.
The young halfback can fight his way towards a possible State of Origin recall with a big individual effort against a top-ranked team and he has nothing to lose so the home side needs to be extra careful. He has eight line breaks for the year, five line-break assists, six try assists and five tries. It is his neat footwork and ability to take the line on from close range that needs particular attention from the Dragons.
Watch out Roosters: You can just look at the most basic statistics to get an idea what the Roosters are up against. The two teams have played 15 games so far this season; the Roosters have won just four, losing 11, while the Dragons have done the opposite, winning 11 and losing just four.
The Roosters have scored just 250 points this year (16.7 per game) the Dragons on the contrary have posted 329 (21.9 per game) but it is in defence where the most obvious chasm lies. The Roosters have leaked 400 points to this point in the year, which equates to 26.7 points against a match, while Wayne Bennett’s troops have allowed just 200 points past their goal line at 13.3 a game.
So the Dragons enter the match with a league-best 129 differential compared to the Roosters’ league-worst of -150. If the Roosters’ defence cannot find a way to tighten up the Dragons will just strangle them out of the contest.
Where it will be won: Simply on the scoreboard. Sounds stupid, right? But the fact of the matter is the Roosters don’t have the defence to get into an arm wrestle-type match against this Dragons outfit so their best chance is to go all-out attack.
For the Roosters to have any chance they must lift their attack to epic proportions. They need to lure the Dragons out of their usual methodical play and try to entice them into a shootout. Then they have a chance.
If the Dragons’ attitude to the match is slightly off and they move away from what has been working so well, perhaps in the search for some exciting points for their home fans, the errors might come and the tri-colours might get some luck. So for the Dragons to win the equation is simple. Show the Roosters the same respect as any other side and play their winning formula.
For the Roosters to win they need to chance their arm and get lucky. At this stage of the year they need to win every game to make the finals, a scenario about as likely to happen as Queensland forfeiting an Origin match. So why not try to go out with a bang?
The history: Played 20; Dragons 11, Roosters 8, drawn 1. The Dragons have won six of the past eight clashes between the sides including a 29-0 win back on ANZAC Day this year. But the last four games have been win-loss for the sides, so if the trend continues an upset Roosters victory could be coming. Amazingly these two sides have never met at WIN Jubilee Stadium.
Conclusion: Tip the Dragons. Seriously. If you do anything else you must be desperate. Yes it is a two-horse race and yes the Roosters won last week but you can find a better game in this round to tip an upset if you need one.
We all love a good fairytale but for the Roosters to mount a late-season charge… well, it would be one for the ages - but about as likely as Pete Sampras coming out of retirement and winning another major tennis title to take the focus back off Roger Federer.
Match officials: Referees – Tony Archer & Tony De Las Heras; Sideline Officials – Steve Carrall & Mohamad Fajajo; Video Ref – Sean Hampstead.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live 7.30pm (NSW), delayed 9.30pm (Qld); Fox Sports – Delayed 4am Sat.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.