2023 NRL Preview Round 8: Roosters Vs Dragons

In what is now a famous 20 year rivalry, the Roosters and Dragons will once again add to the historic clashes between the two clubs on Tuesday in arguably the most anticipated annual ANZAC Round tradition in Rugby League.

MATCHDAY NEWS

MATCHDAY SCHEDULE

Sydney Roosters Vs St. George Illawarra Dragons
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Date: Tuesday April 25, 4:05pm

MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS

Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Joseph Suaalii 4. Paul Momirovski 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Joseph Manu 7. Luke Keary 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Brandon Smith 10. Lindsay Collins 11. Egan Butcher 12. Angus Crichton 13. Victor Radley 14. Drew Hutchison 15. Terrell May 16. Sitili Tupouniua 17. Matthew Lodge 18. Corey Allan 19. Nathan Brown 20. Naufahu Whyte 21. Jake Turpin 22. Sam Walker

Dragons: 1. Tyrell Sloan 2. Mathew Feagai 3. Moses Suli 4. Zac Lomax 5. Tautau Moga 6. Talatau Amone 7. Ben Hunt 8. Zane Musgrove 9. Moses Mbye 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Ben Murdoch-Masila 12. Jack Bird 13. Jack de Belin 14. Jacob Liddle 15. Michael Molo 16. Toby Couchman 17. Josh Kerr 18. Jaiyden Hunt 19. Max Feagai 20. Jayden Sullivan 21. Billy Burns 22. Viliami Fifita

Referee: Adam Gee

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MATCHDAY PREVIEW

The annual ANZAC Day clash takes place on Tuesday in what will be the first time the Sydney Roosters and St. George Illawarra Dragons have both started the match outside the top eight since 2016. Both clubs enter the hotly anticipated annual clash with different controversies hanging over them.

The Roosters will line up without 20-year-old prodigious halfback Sam Walker after he was sensationally dropped during the week. Walker has had an unhappy fortnight culminating in a forgettable Round 7 performance featuring three penalties conceded, one error, and eight missed tackles. This week Joey Manu has moved to the 6 jersey with Luke Keary shifting to halfback in coach Trent Robinson’s preferred lineup for ANZAC Round.

The Roosters also have the welcome return of backrowers Angus Crichton and Sitili Yupouniua as well as centre Paul Momorovski, all of whom will play their first games of 2023. It strengthens a Roosters side that has constantly been decimated by injury, which has affected their forward performance, as well as backline combinations with utility Drew Hutchison struggling at times as a makeshift centre. Whilst the axing of Walker raised eyebrows and produced several media rumours putting pressure on the club, the return of the above trio strengthens the side overall and will inject Manu into the contest.

Manu has had an indifference start to the season, missing the opening rounds with injury and then looking slightly off the pace and uninvolved in his return. It could prove a masterstroke for the Roosters however – when Manu donned the 6 jersey against the Dragons last year he proved to be every part the match winner. In a man of the match performance Manu terrorised the Dragons with two tries, three linebreaks, two linebreak assists and a massive 15 tackle busts. It was one of the most dominant individual offensive displays of the 2022 season.

The Roosters will also be hoping their other star playmaker’s form is boosted by the personnel manoeuvres. Coach Robinson’s intentions seem clear and an indication he wants Keary to take charge of the team. It also should ensure captain James Tedesco will have the chance to inject himself more in the contest so we could see Teddy and Keary once again fire come Tuesday.

After back-to-back losses and sitting in ninth position, expect the Roosters to find their attack this round against a Dragons side that has the sixth worst defensive record – which becomes worse travelling away from their home grounds of Kogarah and Wollongong.

The Dragons meanwhile have won four of the past seven matches in the iconic clash, including a 14-12 upset at the SCG last year. They come into this suffering another agonisingly close defeat, falling 20-14 to Canberra, and having the pressure and media coverage of coach Anthony Griffin’s tenure snowballing by the round. A much needed victory after back-to-back losses is exactly what is needed to quiet the outside noise.

For the Dragons to spring an unlikely upset, they will certainly need their star and lone representative player, Ben Hunt, to fire. The Dragons struggled for points last week against the Raiders and it is no coincidence that Hunt did as well. He finished the game with no attacking stats and a mediocre kicking display, despite the Dragons having several chances to convert opportunities.

A bright spot for the Dragons to knock down the Roosters’ staunch defensive wall is in young number 1 Tyrell Sloan. He has produced attacking stats in four of the Dragons’ six matches so far and been involved in more than a try per contest. In a side with clearly limited attack it will need to be the Hunt and Sloan show if they are to outscore a star-studded Roosters.

Expect this one to be a physical and even fiery clash early, with both teams having a lot to stand up for, combined with the emotion of ANZAC Round. It should be an entertaining and brutal encounter which will please the fans, but it seems the Dragons might be destined to search for their next redeeming win after ANZAC Round.

LAST TEN MATCHES

Roosters 8, Dragons 2.

MATCHDAY PREDICTION

Roosters by 18 points.

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