Master V Apprentice

Josh Dugan - St George Illawarra Dragons
Josh Dugan will take on Michael Jennings in what will be a Saturday night blockbuster. Image courtesy of: dailytelegraph.com.au

Sydney Roosters Logo


Roosters v Dragons


Allianz Stadium

Saturday August 2 – 7:35 PM (AEST)

Form:


WLLWL

WWWLW


St George Illawarra Dragons Logo


It’s a showdown that's been brewing for well over a month - the master up against the apprentice. Experienced Sydney Roosters centre, Michael Jennings, essentially showed Dragon Josh Dugan the ropes at representative level. But on Saturday night, Jennings won’t be showing him any tricks of the trade. Instead, he will be looking to use his blistering pace and impressive footwork to turn the 'fullback turned centre' inside out.

The Roosters need Jennings to fire more than ever. He is consistently strong in both attack and defence. The reason the Chooks were so good last year was their consistency. Week in week out they would constantly bring their best performances. This year, it seems like they are walking into games expecting to win. Rugby league is a great leveller and there's no such thing as a sure win, especially if you don't show up with the right attitude. The Chooks suffered one of those defeat at the hands of Newcastle last Friday night. They might have had a couple of calls go against them, but the Roosters failed to click far too often. With Jennings back in the line-up, their left side finally has that punch they have been missing over the past couple of months. The return of Jennings pushes Aiden Guerra back into the second row, with Mitchell Aubusson (ankle) excluded due to injury. Another big blow to the reigning premiers is the month-long injury to Sonny Bill Williams (broken thumb). With SBW leaving such a big hole, everyone else needs to step up. Shaun Kenny-Dowall shifts to the centres, with Nene Macdonald starting on the wing. Heath L’Estrange and Vincent Leuluai have both been named on an extended bench.

It’s fair to say Dugan was made to be a centre. When the move was first suggested, many thought it would fail miserably. But I had a different view. I always thought Dugan was a great fullback, but he could be lethal in closer. Dugan runs great lines, and is so strong in attack and defence, so I truly believed he would flourish at centre, which he seems to be doing.

Against the Tigers last week, he made more tackles than the rest of the backline combined, and made the second most metres in the team, behind only fellow representative back Brett Morris. I reckons the reason he is going so well this year is because a lot of pressure has been lifted off his shoulders. He doesn’t have to be the game changer any more. Instead, he just has to be there when needed and get the job done. If he continues to perform the way he is, he might be wearing a green and gold jersey at the end of the year. Not surprisingly, coach ‘Mary’ McGregor has named the same 17 which smashed the Tigers last week, with Shane Pumipi added to a five-man bench.

This is a huge game for both sides. For the Roosters, a win here will see them jump into the Top 4. For the Dragons, there's a place in the Top 8 at stake. With so much resting on the result, this one is set to be a blockbuster and I’m tipping a bit of an upset.

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Toby's Tip: Dragons 1-12

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