Saturday NRL

Picture: Mark Evans/
James Graham has excelled for the Bulldogs in his first year at the club. Picture: Mark Evans/
The Bulldogs  12 game winning streak came to an abrupt end against the Raiders in Canberra last weekend, but they can still claim the J.J Gitinan Shield as NRL minor premiers by beating the Roosters at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night. Skipper Michael Ennis returns after being rested last week with Joel Romelo the man to miss out.

Although they have won only eight of their 23 matches this season, the Roosters  have been in reasonable form of late, with last week’s 44-20 win over Wests Tigers arguably their best result of the year. Coach Brian Smith has stuck with the same squad from that match, but there will be much attention on captain Braith Anasta who is lining up for the tri-colours for the final time before moving to the Tigers in 2013.

History – The ledger is pretty well even after 159 meetings between these sides, with the Bulldogs winning on 76 occasions, while the Roosters have been successful 78 times and five matches have ended in a draw. The Bulldogs have had good success when they have played at ANZ Stadium, winning nine from 11 against the tri-colours and were also 30-12 victors when the clubs met in round 12 this season.

Dangermen – After going through a purple patch of form around State Of Origin time, Josh Morris  has been relatively quiet in the past few weeks, failing to cross the tryline since round 19. Prior to his barren run, the centre scored seven tries in four matches and you would think that his next big performance is just around the corner.

Much maligned New South Wales halfback Mitchell Pearce  has his fair share of knockers, but he has been central to the Roosters attack this year, leading the side in try assists and linebreak assists. He has also managed to find the tryline with greater frequency in 2012 and his try against the Tigers last week was the tenth of this campaign, a club high.

Prediction – Despite their improved performances in recent times, it is hard to see the Roosters being able to match it with the Bulldogs. Last week’s defeat to Canberra may have been the wakeup call that they needed heading into the finals and they will be raring to go with the minor premiership at stake. Bulldogs 13+

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