After snapping up arguably the two highest-profile recruits of the off-season in Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco, the Sydney Roosters are finally where many had expected them to be in 2018 – sitting atop the Telstra Premiership ladder and in the box seat to win the minor premiership.
Trent Robinson's side got the better of arch rivals South Sydney last week on the back of a stellar defensive performance, stretching their winning streak to five. They're officially the form team of the competition, with Cronk, Tedesco and boom centre Latrell Mitchell providing the fireworks in attack.
The Tricolours' famous defence comes up against Canberra's brilliant attack on Sunday, with the Green Machine stuck in a rut after four straight defeats despite scoring more points this season than any other team.
The Raiders haven't spent a single week in the top eight this season, with a poor defensive record and too many tight losses costing them dearly.
They do have a good recent record against the Roosters however, beating them 24-16 last season and 21-20 in 2016.
Match: Raiders v Wests Tigers
Round 22 -
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Key match-up: Tedesco may have had a slow start to the season with his new club but he's been in terrific form lately, after shining on the State of Origin stage for NSW with an incredible 17 tackle busts in game one alone. But he's not the only tackle-busting custodian in this clash with teenage Raiders sensation Nick Cotric finding his feet in the fullback role in recent weeks. Cotric actually leads the league in tackle breaks this season – ahead of Kalyn Ponga and Tedesco – and both No.1s are capable of creating something out of nothing with damaging kick returns.
For the Raiders to win: It's all about defence. Canberra coach Ricky Stuart oversaw a great defensive outfit when he was coach of the Roosters in the early 2000s but his current side is all about out-gunning the opposition – something that hasn't gone to plan in recent weeks. The Raiders leaked 44 points against the Storm in round 20, conceded 40 against Penrith a week later and let in 20 in the first half against the Wests Tigers last round. More defensive lapses this week would prove costly.
For the Roosters to win: Match last week's effort. Holding the red-hot Rabbitohs to just 14 points was a great result for Robinson's men, considering Souths had racked up 30 against Melbourne a week earlier. The win came despite the Roosters enjoying just 43% of possession against the second-best attacking side in the league. If they can repeat that defensive effort against the best attacking side in the NRL the win will be theirs.
Raiders Stat Attack: Discipline has been an issue for Canberra this season, with the Raiders the only team in the league to have conceded more than 200 penalties across the first 22 rounds. They leaked three tries last week while Joey Leilua was in the sin bin – the seventh Raiders binning this season.
Roosters Stat Attack: Sometimes statistics can be misleading – the Sydneysiders have coughed up the most errors and made the most ineffective tackles in the NRL, yet have more wins than any other team. More telling are the effort plays that typify the well-drilled Roosters – they lead the league in support runs (3378), charge downs (10) and kick return metres (3850).
And another thing: For all of the Roosters' recent successes they haven't beaten Canberra since March 2015, and haven't won in Canberra since July 2010.
Match: Raiders v Roosters
Round 23 -
Fullback for Raiders is number 1 Brad AbbeyFullback for Roosters is number 1 James Tedesco
Winger for Raiders is number 2 Nick CotricWinger for Roosters is number 2 Daniel Tupou
Centre for Raiders is number 3 Elliott WhiteheadCentre for Roosters is number 3 Latrell Mitchell
Centre for Raiders is number 4 Joseph LeiluaCentre for Roosters is number 4 Joseph Manu
Winger for Raiders is number 5 Jordan RapanaWinger for Roosters is number 5 Blake Ferguson
Five-Eighth for Raiders is number 6 Blake AustinFive-Eighth for Roosters is number 6 Ryan Matterson
Halfback for Raiders is number 7 Sam WilliamsHalfback for Roosters is number 7 Cooper Cronk
Prop for Raiders is number 8 Dunamis LuiProp for Roosters is number 8 Dylan Napa
Hooker for Raiders is number 9 Josh HodgsonHooker for Roosters is number 9 Jake Friend
Prop for Raiders is number 10 Shannon BoydProp for Roosters is number 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho
2nd Row for Raiders is number 11 Joseph Tapine2nd Row for Roosters is number 11 Boyd Cordner
2nd Row for Raiders is number 12 Iosia Soliola2nd Row for Roosters is number 12 Isaac Liu
Lock for Raiders is number 13 Josh PapaliiLock for Roosters is number 13 Victor Radley
Interchange for Raiders is number 14 Emre GulerInterchange for Roosters is number 14 Nat Butcher
Interchange for Raiders is number 15 Luke BatemanInterchange for Roosters is number 15 Zane Tetevano
Interchange for Raiders is number 16 Siliva HaviliInterchange for Roosters is number 16 Mitchell Aubusson
Interchange for Raiders is number 17 Junior PauloInterchange for Roosters is number 17 Sean O'Sullivan
- Referee: Henry Perenara
- Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
- Touch Judge: Tim Roby
Raiders: The Raiders are 1-17, with Jack Murchie and Liam Knight the last two players to be dropped from the bench. Michael Oldfield and Makahesi Makatoa were cut on Saturday.
Roosters: The Tricolours are 1-17 as they seek to remain in sole possession of top spot on the ladder. Dylan Napa starts at prop for the injury Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (ribs) with Nat Butcher joining the bench. Lindsay Collins and Paul Momirovski were the last two players dropped from the bench. Sitili Tupounuia and Kurt Baptiste were omitted 24 hours before kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 59; Roosters 32 wins, Raiders 27 wins
Previous result: Raiders won 24-16 at GIO Stadium in round 12, 2017
Points per game: Raiders 24.2; Roosters 22.8
Points conceded per game: Raiders 23.6; Roosters 15
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Petero Civoniceva's prediction: The Roosters were great against Souths and they are marching towards the finals with lots of key players in top form. Canberra can be a dangerous opponent on their day but there is no way the Roosters will let their guard down and they'll have too much firepower.
Tip: Roosters by 16