The St George Illawarra Dragons are said to be eyeing off an off-season move for out-of-contract Eels back Jarryd Hayne.
It’s an Anzac Day blockbuster between the Dragons and the Roosters. We will preview the form, history, team line ups and predict a winner including why I think the Dragons can cement themselves as one of the Premiership favourites with a big win.
It’s one of the biggest Anzac Day clashes in the past decade, as the Dragons and the Roosters lock horns in a blockbuster at Allianz Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. The Dragons, despite suffering their first loss last week, have experienced their best start to a season in several years, to top the competition at 6-1 heading into this marquee day.
Last week in a high-quality game the Dragons were upset 20-12 in a physical battle against the second placed Warriors over in New Zealand. The Roosters managed to secure an ugly but vital 6-0 victory over the Bulldogs, managing to defend over 50 tackles in their opponents 20m zone.
Despite not playing great football, the Roosters are sitting at 4-3 and will be desperate make a statement on a huge occasion.
The Dragons hold a fairly imposing record on Anzac Day, having won ten of the 16 clashes between the clubs on this special occasion since 2002.
The 2015, 2016 and 2017 games were all decided by two points or less, with the Roosters prevailing in golden point in 2017, 13-12, through a Mitchell Pearce field goal.
In 2015 and 2016 the Dragons got home 20-18 and 14-12, as neutrals hope for another cliff hanger in 2018. While the Roosters won convincingly in 2013 and 2014, the Dragons won five straight Anzac Day games between 2008 and 2012.
St George Illawarra Dragons’ scouting report
The Dragons have been virtually free of disruptions this season, and remain unchanged except for Jacob Host replacing Hame Sele on the interchange bench. Amazingly they have used just 18 players through seven rounds, which is remarkable considering the amount of injuries from heavy contact in the NRL these days.
Sydney Roosters’ scouting report
Trent Robinson gets Sio Siua Taukeiaho back from a knee injury on the bench, bumping Frank-Paul Nuuausala to the reserves. Roosters co-captain Jake Friend is named, despite suffering a head knock last week, and will be looking to have a big game after some criticism this year from Roosters’ fans about his form.
Verdict – Dragons by 12-20
The Dragons are specials here. I know the Roosters tackled well last week, however it was against a Bulldogs’ side that lack creativity and pace in key positions, and they simply cannot afford to turn over anywhere near as much ball here.
The Roosters have made 94 errors this season which is the most in the competition while the Dragons lead the competition in key categories including points, tackle breaks, set completions and possession.
They had a slip up last week, however their combinations have also developed faster than the Roosters in the spine. Matt Dufty leads the NRL for line breaks, while Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop have clicked quicker as a combination than Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary at the Roosters, with the Roosters ranked just ninth in attack so far in 2018.
The Dragons have four forwards in Origin contention and on the big occasion tomorrow I can see the likes of Paul Vaughan, Tyson Frizzel and Jack De Belin dominating this game in the middle of the field and getting on top of a Roosters’ pack that while experienced, have some players out of form this season.
I’m expecting at least 25,000 Dragons fans to pack into Allianz which will make it like a Dragons’ home game.
This is the best start to the season for the Red V in recent memory, and tomorrow I think they have the perfect opportunity to make a real statement in the competition. I actually think the Dragons will win this game by more than 13 points and stamp themselves as premiership favourites alongside the Melbourne Storm.