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A cracking climax to Round 20 awaits on Sunday afternoon as the Roosters and Dragons collide in a mouth-watering top four clash at Allianz.
The Roosters are arguably the form team of the competition at the moment – alongside Melbourne and potentially Brisbane – and come into this encounter on the back of six wins in their last seven matches.
Trent Robinson’s side have improved to become the best defensive team in the competition over the last month, surging into the top four as a result. The Roosters have kept their opponents to 16 points or less in six of those seven wins and are proving extremely difficult to break down.
As good a chance as anyone to capture the premiership this season and even challenge for the minor premiership given how tight the entire top eight is, a win over the Dragons would be a significant scalp for the Roosters on Sunday – and avenge an ANZAC Day loss to them earlier this year.
St George Illawarra have been a bit up-and-down over the last couple of months, but at the end of the day they’ve managed to hold onto a top four spot throughout the course of the season, and that’s a pass in any coaches book at this stage of the season.
The job now for the Dragons is to maintain their current level and then lift again for the finals – timing is everything and sometimes I do wonder if the Dragons have peaked too early.
Only time will tell, but a win over an in-form Roosters outfit will give them immense confidence moving forward. I can see a low-scoring affair playing out on Sunday, but with the Roosters defending as well as they have been, I’m backing the Tri-colours home in a thriller.
Isaac Liu and Mitchell Aubusson return on the bench for the Roosters in place of Lindsay Collins and Nat Butcher, while Tyson Frizell returns for the Dragons, with Luciano Leilua dropping to the bench and Blake Lawrie to the reserves.
Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Luke Keary, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend (c), 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Ryan Matterson, 13 Victor Radley
Interchange: 14 Isaac Liu, 15 Zane Tetevano, 16 Mitchell Aubusson, 17 Kurt Baptiste
Reserves: 18 Nat Butcher, 20 Matthew Ikuvalu, 21 Dylan Napa, 22 Lindsay Collins
Dragons: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Jordan Pereira, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop (c), 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack de Belin
Interchange: 14 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Luciano Leilua
Reserves: 18 Patrick Herbert, 19 Blake Lawrie, 20 Jai Field, 21 Zachary Lomax