Red V are NRL's 'benchmark': Roosters
Form rarely matters when the Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra Dragons meet on Anzac Day, but the fact both sides started Round 8 nestled in the top four adds extra spice to what was already going to be a blockbuster encounter.
The Dragons have surprised all and sundry to sit alongside the Storm in equal-first position on the Telstra Premiership ladder courtesy of a 6-1 start, while the Tricolours are hot on their heels with five wins from seven matches.
It's the first time since the sides met in the 2010 Grand Final that both clubs have been in such a strong position at this stage of the year, and Roosters coach Trent Robinson knows his men will be up against it on Tuesday afternoon.
"It's a tough task because they're the in-form team of the competition," Robinson said.
"They've played really well this year so they deserve everything that they've got. They were criticised pre-season and they've delivered week after week. It's going to be a good test because we've had a good start - we're not far behind, but we've got to make sure that we deliver on Anzac Day."
The Roosters mentor said the match would be won and lost in the middle third of the field, with his side's biggest challenge trying to contain Dragons forwards Paul Vaughan, Russell Packer, Jack de Belin and co.
"They've simplified their style and they've played to their strengths, which is very much about the forwards and the way in which they carry the ball," Robinson said.
"I think they're one of the best carriers statistically so far this season. The way they've carried the ball forward, the way they've advanced through a lot of teams this year [has been impressive] and they've got a lot of rewards on the back of that."
Adding extra drama to the top-of-the-table clash is last year's fiery clash that saw the Roosters accuse their opponents of staying down to earn penalties in the 20-18 thriller.
However, Roosters co-captain Jake Friend steered clear of opening old wounds, instead choosing to heap praise on the high-flying Dragons.
"At the moment they're the benchmark so for us it's an even bigger game," he said.
"I'm not going to go back and dwell on that sort of stuff; I'm looking forward to the game this year.
"It's a lot different for us [compared to] this time last year. We're just looking to prep well and play good footy on a pretty special day."