Craig Cauchi previews the traditional ANZAC day clash between the Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra Dragons at the fabled SCG.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Roosters have been in scintillating touch, and while they have had lapses in matches, they have at times proved impossible to handle. This was exactly what happened in the first half of their match against the Melbourne Storm, racing out to a 20-0 lead against last years grand finalists. The lead didn’t last long in the second half, as the Roosters dropped off, and required a stunning Latrell Mitchell field goal to escape with the two points.
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons have been on a four match winning streak but have only really shown their best form in their Sunday afternoon drubbing of the Bulldogs. The match against Manly was physical and, while they were strong defensively, the Dragons two tries came through kicks. The one element that has been a feature for the Dragons during their winning run has been their line speed, getting up into their opponents faces and applying the pressure.
The Roosters have been forced to shuffle their decks with Luke Keary being ruled out after picking up another concussion over the weekend. After kicking the winning field goal, Latrell Mitchell will replace Keary in the halves, with the reliable Aubusson and the returning Joseph Manu taking up the two centre positions. While Jake Friend returns, pushing Victor Radley back to lock-arguably his strongest position- moving Zane Tetevano back to the bench and Sam Verrills making way for Lachlan Lam.
Sydney Roosters squad: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Mitchell Aubusson 4. Joseph Manu 5. Matt Ikuvalu 6. Latrell Mitchell 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Victor Radley INTERCHANGE 14. Nat Butcher 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Sitili Tupouniua 17. Lachlan Lam RESERVES 18. Lindsay Collins 19. Poasa Faamausili 20. Brock Lamb 21. Sam Verrills
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons will look to field the same 17 that helped them to victory over the Sea Eagles the previous Saturday night. The side has certainly settled into an early season groove. No news yet on when suspended lock Jack de Belin will return to the team and whether his appeal is successful.
St George Illawarra Dragons squad: 1. Matt Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Blake Lawrie INTERCHANGE 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Zac Lomax 16. Jacob Host 17. Luciano Leilua RESERVE 18. Mitchell Allgood 19. Jai Field 20. Lachlan Timm 21. Jonus Pearson
HEAD TO HEAD
Recent ANZAC day clashes have gone the way of the Dragons, having won the last 3 out of four matches. That included last years 24-8 victory over a Roosters team that have improved greatly in form. Since then, the Roosters have gone on to become World Champions and enter this match in the type of form that shows why they’re early season favourites. The Roosters did go on to beat the Dragons later on in the season. The one thing that history does show us about these clashes is that it will be full of passion and emotion.
This match is always hotly anticipated and brings on a finals like atmosphere. And it will be a finals like match that should be expected from these two sides. Not the least the Roosters who have been playing in the same style and form that took them all the way to the Premiership in 2018. The form of two players, James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell, has been indicative of their status as two of the best players in the game. And five-eighth Luke Keary has been the important piece that has been holding them all together, creating great opportunities for these two players to excel. But his exclusion and the reshuffle it’s caused will certainly change the way they will involve themselves. The Dragons have been working hard on their new combinations too and will be looking to produce a similar effort to the one they put in a fortnight ago. A match where they applied great pressure through their defence and numbers in attack. It’s this type of intensity and game plan that they need to produce for the entire 80-minutes if they are any chance of toppling the Roosters.
Both sides have international standard players across the park and will look to get the best out of them in the opening twenty minutes. If either side fail to fully gain control of the match within the opening stanza, then it’s going to come down to both teams’ benches to continue that hard work. Both sides have benches that are inexperienced when it comes to big occasions and the way the coaches look to inject these players on the contest will be crucial. In Round 2, after controlling the first half, the Dragons fell away in the second half to the Rabbitohs when they looked for impact off the bench. The same happened last week against the Storm, with Cameron Smith leading his pack over an inexperienced Roosters bench to get their team back in the contest. One player in particular is young Dragons back Zac Lomax, who didn’t see any minutes in their previous match. Add into that, the goal kicking performance of Tim Lafai, McGregor will need to consider potentially bringing Lomax into the contest earlier.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday April 25, 2019
Referee: Ben Cummins, Grant Atkins
WHO WILL WIN?
The Dragons are on a confident streak, winning matches through their grit. While it seems the only thing that can stop the Roosters is their tendency to drop off in matches. The Roosters will certainly be able to produce a top-quality performance for the big occasion and the Dragons will need their best to go with them. And off the confidence of overcoming the Storm in golden point expect the Roosters to encounter for the Dragons in another close ANZAC day clash. Roosters by 4