St. George-Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters open round eight with the traditional ANZAC Day game at the SFS.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Dragons’ undefeated start finally ended last Friday night, losing to the NZ Warriors 20-12 in Auckland. The Warriors led 10-0 at halftime and 16-6 with 15 minutes left. A converted try to Tariq Sims got the Dragons within four points before Isaiah Palpali’i scored to secure the win. The Dragons (6-1) stayed in first despite the loss.
The Roosters (4-3) stayed in touch with the top four, beating Canterbury 6-0 last Thursday night at Homebush. It was a dour game, with Latrell Mitchell scoring the only try in the fourth minute. His conversion meant Mitchell also scored the only points in the game. The Roosters won despite only 45 per cent possession, 17 errors and a 67 per cent completion rate. It summarised the Roosters’ inconsistent season: finding enough to win, but not that impressive.
Jacob Host comes into the starting XVII at the expense of Hame Sele.
Sio Siua Taukeaiaho returns on the interchange bench from a knee injury, with Frank-Paul Nuuausala omitted.
The Roosters and Dragons played just once in 2017 (also the traditional ANZAC game). Infront of over 40,000 at the SFS, the Roosters won 13-12 through a Mitchell Pearce field goal. Pearce also scored one of the Roosters’ two tries.
Ben Hunt (Dragons) and Cooper Cronk (Roosters) are the lynchpins of their respective teams. Both huge off-season signings, Hunt has guided the Dragons to their 6-1 record, with two tries and seven try assists. Cronk has scored two tries with one try assist. Hunt’s more consistent form will tip the game in the Dragons’ favour.
Since 1999, the Dragons and Roosters have a close rivalry. The Dragons lead 19-17 win one draw.
1 Matthew Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 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 Jacob Host
Reserves: 18 Hame Sele, 19 Zachary Lomax, 20 Mitchell Allgood, 21 Reece Robson
1 James Tedesco, 2 Joseph Manu, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Mitchell Aubusson, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Luke Keary, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Zane Tetevano, 9 Jake Friend (c), 10 Dylan Napa, 11 Boyd Cordner (c), 12 Ryan Matterson, 13 Isaac Liu
Interchange: 14 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 15 Sio Siua Taukeiiaho, 16 Nat Butcher, 17 Victor Radley
Reserves: 18 Frank-Paul Nuuausala, 19 Sitili Tupouniua, 20 Kurt Baptiste, 21 Reece Robinson
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Wednesday April 25.
Venue: Allianz Stadium (Sydney Football Stadium)
WHO WILL WIN?
This has the potential to be a blockbuster. Will the Dragons’ first loss start a form slide, or was it an aberration? This is crucial game for the Roosters. A win will take them to 5-3 and closer to the top four. A loss will keep the Roosters in the big pack from 5th to 11th. Based on current form, the Dragons should take out a close one.
St. George-Illawarra by two.