Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson says halves partners James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce need to find form at the same time when they come up against St George Illawarra’s watertight defence.
The one-time NSW Origin combination have each had moments of on-field brilliance this season, but it has rarely occurred in tandem and their performance will be crucial in the tricolours’ blockbuster Anzac Day clash with the Dragons at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
“Pearcey’s had a great start to the season, he came out firing,” Robinson told 2KY’s Big Sports Breakfast on Wednesday.
“(But) there needs to be a bit of improvement on the last couple of weeks in his footy.
“Jimmy, he had a pretty bad game against Brisbane and put his hand up for that.
“I thought he was best on field on Saturday night (against Melbourne), I thought he had a big game for us.”
A sizzling Pearce topped the NRL try assist tally for the first four rounds, the star halfback and co-captain notching seven alongside South Sydney’s Adam Reynolds as the Roosters took wins over North Queensland, Penrith and Canberra, along with a loss to the Rabbitohs.
Five-eighth Maloney has been struggling with a slip in form, including missing 16 tackles in one fortnight in the club’s consecutive losses to Cronulla and Brisbane.
But the 28-year-old bounced back in Saturday’s last-gasp loss to the Storm, providing two sharp assists and a perfect goal-kicking record.
There’s a lot at stake for the Roosters this weekend as they attempt to turn around a three-loss slump against the surprise side of the season.
The second-placed Dragons’ defence this year ranks among the best of the NRL era, having conceded just 74 points after seven rounds – 30 points better than the next-best Storm.
Robinson said it was key both Pearce and Maloney put on strong showings against the Dragons.
“We’ve just got to make sure that both of them are hitting their straps at the same time,” he said.
“Getting consistency week in week out is the next step for us.”
The coach said the 2013 premiers were still plucky despite their recent results “predicament”, adding the team needed to work on finishing games strongly.
“We’ve got to manage the last 10-15 minutes a bit better,” he said.
“We’ve been in every game that we’ve been in this year, and we’ve won some at the end (but) we haven’t done that the last two games.
“We’ve gone in in equal points into the last 10 minutes of the last two games. We’ve gone to golden point, and then we lost through a field goal again.”