Bad blood threatens to boilover when the Sydney Roosters reprise their NRL rivalry with St George Illawarra on Sunday at Allianz Stadium.
While both sides are out of the running for the finals and have little to play for, the clash won’t be short of feeling after their last encounter had ended in a public slanging match between coaches Trent Robinson and Paul McGregor.
After the Dragons’ 20-18 Anzac Day win – a game best remembered for Robinson’s post-match blow-up at referee Ben Cummins – the Roosters’ mentor took aim at Dragons players including hooker Mitch Rein for allegedly staying down in an attempt to milk penalties.
It came after Robinson unloaded on centre Euan Aitken for allegedly diving in the corresponding game in 2015.
It prompted McGregor to defend his players and fire back, accusing Robinson of venting his frustrations at his side’s lacklustre start to the season.
“There’s been good history since Anzac Day and then the 2010 grand final,” Robinson said on Saturday.
“That counts but it doesn’t matter who we play this weekend.”
McGregor also this week said his players remembered their last encounter and that it had sparked a rivalry between the two sides.
The saga gives added spice to the encounter with both coaches praising their sides for improved efforts over the past few weeks.
The Roosters had their best win of the year against premiers North Queensland last week, and have come out on top in two of their past three, while the Dragons likewise punched through for a pressure-relieving win over Cronulla.
In the Dragons’ only change, Leeson Ah Mau returns for injured back-rower Tariq Sims, who was a standout in last week’s victory over the Sharks.
“In the last three weeks, we played three teams in the top six and last week was a good win,” McGregor said.
“On the back of improving the prior two weeks against two quality sides in Canterbury and Brisbane, for a (total losing margin) of seven points, the players have shown how hard they’ve worked.”
STATS THAT MATTER:
* Since 2011, the Roosters have won seven from 11 against the Dragons, but have lost twice in the past three meetings
* The Roosters’ eight losses by four points or less is the equal-second most in premiership history. Only the 2007 Cronulla side (nine) had more
* The Roosters have the worst completion rate in the competition (72.3 per cent) and have managed above 80 per cent just three times this season
Source: Fox Sports Stats