Round 24: Roosters v Broncos preview
The Roosters look to keep their minor premiership hopes alive as the Broncos try to secure a home final.
There will be plenty to play for on Saturday night when the Roosters and Broncos meet at Allianz Stadium.
The Tricolours re-established themselves as the team to beat in the race for the premiership a fortnight ago when they took down the Rabbitohs 18-14. However, such is the nature of this year's competition that they backed that performance up with a flat one against a Raiders outfit with little to play for but pride. Their 14-12 loss to Canberra saw them relinquish top spot on the ladder and has also seen their top two aspirations questioned.
Coach Trent Robinson wouldn't have been too upset in his team's effort last week. After all, the Raiders did complete at 94% and were restricted to just one try by the Roosters' dogged defence. However, ill-discipline ultimately cost them, with Canberra prevailing on the back of three penalty goals.
Heading into September with the best defensive record in the competition, the Roosters can't continue to give away penalties on their own line as other teams may now follow Canberra's game plan and take the easy two points. And clearly, if they give away enough, those two points will eventually add up. The Tricolours' chances in attack are bolstered by the return of five-eighth Luke Keary.
Although, they won't have it all their way against a confident Brisbane outfit. The Broncos have had their premiership credentials questioned throughout 2018, with many doubting their ability to match it with the top sides given their inconsistency.
However, Wayne Bennett's men made a clear statement last week they dismantled South Sydney 38-18. The goal now - making it two-straight wins.
Consistency has continued to elude the Broncos this season, highlighted in the fact that they backed up a 34-0 win over the Titans in Round 17 with a 26-6 loss to the Warriors. They will also need to contend with a fired up Roosters side who will be keen to avenge their controversial 28-22 loss to the Broncos earlier in the year.
Last Meeting: Round 11 2018 - Broncos 28 Roosters 22
Who to watch: The battle between Dylan Napa and Matt Lodge is set to be a feisty one after the latter called out the Roosters prop out on social media earlier in the week. Napa will still be fuming after he was controversially sin-binned for what appeared to be an accidental high tackle against Brisbane in Round 11. Filling in for the injured Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Napa will need to provide much-needed aggression to the Roosters' pack and should have no problems getting motivated for Saturday night's clash.
This week he comes up against Lodge, who has arguably been Brisbane's best in 2018. He has consistently provided the Broncos with plenty of go-forward up front in his first season back in the NRL and isn't afraid to hit hard in defence either. Both Napa and Lodge have a similar role in their respective clubs - they are enforcers, tasked with instilling fear into the opposition. The battle up front will likely decide Saturday night's result and the performance of both number eights will go a long way to determining which pack comes out on top.
Favourites: Despite running over the top of the Rabbitohs last week the Broncos aren't expected to do the same against the Roosters.