They've made their task of securing a top-eight position tougher with back-to-back defeats but an optimistic Anthony Griffin insists the Dragons' recent run of form won't derail their finals ambitions.
Only three weeks ago, the Dragons were sitting eighth and eyeing off a strong run into the finals but, after conceding 86 points in the past fortnight, they find themselves clinging for life on the edge of the top eight.
With a must-win clash against the Daly Cherry-Evans led Sea Eagles, who remain just two points ahead of the Red V on the ladder, Griffin said his side were determined to bring their “best game of football” to the iconic Kogarah home ground.
“It’s the first time we’ve played Manly so it’s a big week for us. We’re both in similar positions on the ladder so it's a big game and we’ve got to play a strong 80 minutes this week,” Griffin said on Thursday.
“We’ve been inconsistent and we need to bring our best game of football tomorrow night. There’s been some really strong performances but the inconsistency of our best and the last couple of weeks is the thing we’ve got to get right and I’m sure we’ll be heaps better tomorrow night."
Match Highlights: Roosters v Dragons
Comfortably beaten despite scoring 44 points over their past two games, the biggest concern for Griffin's Dragons will be their defence as they enter Round 19 with the fifth-worst defensive record in the NRL.
“Manly are a great side and have been in good form through the middle of the year and we’ve all got to lift defensively, it hasn’t been our best two weeks in defence," Griffin admitted.
“But Tariq (Sims) is back from suspension so that will help and (Josh) McGuire came back last week and got another 25-odd minutes under his belt since coming back from his groin injury.
“So having those two boys back helps and gives us a bit more depth and foot speed around the ruck so that defence should tighten up.”
While Manly’s star forward Jake Trbojevic has been ruled out after contracting COVID, the Dragons will also be without one of their most powerful ball-runners, Moses Suli, who will be replaced by Moses Mbye in the starting side.
“Suli's is a big loss for us: him and Ravalawa the last couple of weeks have been a lot of our strike,” Griffin said of the injured pair.
“But Moses Mbye has done the job wherever we’ve put him, he’s played Origin and centre a couple of years ago so he’ll go in there and do a job for us tomorrow night.”
Friday's match is also set to feature a pivotal playmaking battle between Ben Hunt and his Maroons team-mate Cherry-Evans.
Hunt heroics gets the Dragons on the board
“You’ve got two great halfbacks playing each other with Hunt and Cherry-Evans, so the kicking game will be important,” Griffin said.
“Obviously defensively again, they’re a big mobile side Manly and have got a lot of strike and great halves so when it’s wet it’ll come down to the kicking game, field position and defence.
“They’re great halves and a couple of weeks ago they were playing together [for Queensland] so it makes it such a big attraction and hopefully everyone gets down to watch.”
Match: Dragons v Sea Eagles
Round 19 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney