Roosters v Dragons preview
Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra Dragons
Exactly 100 years to the day after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed at Gallipoli during World War I, the NRL pays tribute to the sacrifices made by those in the armed forces all those years ago in a huge commemorative Anzac weekend of rugby league.
Arguably the most hotly anticipated game of the weekend is this traditional Anzac weekend clash between old rivals the Roosters and surprise packets the Dragons, a match-up which has been a feature of the NRL draw every year since 2002.
Both sides will wear a commemorative jersey to honour the occasion, while travel on public transport to Sydney's Moore Park is included in the ticket price in anticipation of a big crowd.
Those who show up early will be able to see the special pre-match ceremony paying tribute to the Anzacs, a reading of the Ode, a rendition of the Last Post and a game of 2-up at 1:30.
When the action kicks off it will be the Roosters as the side under pressure after amazingly racking up three straight losses, despite seeming to be one of the form teams of the competition. While they were poor against the Sharks three weeks ago they have since lost two high-quality nailbiters against top-shelf opposition in the Broncos and Storm.
They'll have to make do without enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who is out for six weeks with a pec strain, but Sam Moa is back from suspension to replace him in the only change from last week's side.
Meanwhile their opponents, who have crafted the most miserly defence in the competition under coach Paul McGregor, are coming in off five straight wins that have them up in equal first on the ladder, behind just the Storm on for-and-against. McGregor has named an unchanged 17.
Watch out Roosters: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Roosters coach Trent Robinson will be hoping it's the immovable object that gives way. His side's attack is the best in the comp after seven rounds – but this week it comes up against what is easily the premiership's most rock-solid defence. The Dragons have conceded just 74 points in seven games – so around 10 points per 80 minutes. The Roosters have racked up 154 in that time at 22 per week. They'll be hoping it helps them crack that unbreakable Red V wall.
Watch out Dragons: Well, see above – their defence will be truly tested this week against the competition's most dangerous attack. Origin hopefuls Mitch Pearce and James Maloney have laid on six tries apiece – easily the best of any halves pairing at this stage. In terms of actually scoring tries the Roosters have been sharing it around but left-edge dangermen Daniel Tupou and Michael Jennings each have four so far so expect Dylan Farrell and Jason Nightingale to get a workout on Saturday afternoon.
Key Match-Up: Mitch Pearce v Benji Marshall. One of the form playmakers of the past 12 months up against one of the game's modern superstars (and former Golden Boot winner) who looks to be returning to something like his best form. Pearce was unstoppable in late 2014, a premiership-winner in 2013 and – aside from the loss to Cronulla – has been consistently excellent in 2015 with six try assists and four line-break assists. Marshall's been no slouch, with four try assists and line break assists of his own, and was in sublime touch in the big win over the Bulldogs a fortnight ago. One or both of these men will have a big say in how this one pans out.
The History: Played 32; Roosters 14, Dragons 17, Drawn 1. The merged club is on a five-match losing streak against the Tricolours, stretching back to 2012, but have a slight edge overall. They are also on a five-match losing run at Allianz Stadium.
What Are The Odds: Roosters $1.45 v Dragons $2.70. Punters with Sportsbet are well and truly on the Dragons bandwagon with 12 times the investment on St George Illawarra compared to the Roosters. The Dragons have been backed with the 6.0 start at the line as well. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Gerard Sutton & Gavin Reynolds; touch judges: Jeff Younis & Nick Beashel; video referees: Bernard Sutton & Luke Patton.
Televised: Channel 9, Live, 4pm.
The Way We See It: A very tough one to call. The Roosters are playing better than a three-game losing streak would suggest and while the Dragons have been impressive in their five-game run, how long can they keep it up? The Roosters have enjoyed the better of things against the Red V lately, not that that will count for anything once the sides run out. We're tipping a tight, hard-fought, low-scoring encounter... but Roosters to get back in the winner's circle with a two-point victory.