AAP Rugby

Roosters prepare for Panthers test

By AAP Newswire

If defence wins premierships, the Sydney Roosters face a litmus test in their blockbuster NRL showdown with Penrith on Friday night.

The heavyweight match-up pits the competition's two best defensive teams against one another and shapes as a gauge of just how far the Roosters have come following a slow start to the year.

Coach Trent Robinson is fond of saying his side pride themselves on their 'D and that their brand is defined by it. By way of example, he cites explosive young forward Victor Radley as typifying the club's defensive aggression.

After 14 rounds, the Roosters (2.3 tries, 15.1 points per game) and Panthers (2.4 tries, 14.6 points) have been the league's best defensive sides.

Anthony Griffin's troops, in particular their well-rounded forward pack, have been staunch in defending their line, conceding the fewest metres in the comp (1243 per game).

On the back of it, they've bolted out of the gates with 10 wins from 13 games - an equal club record - and sit second on the ladder.

And Robinson wants his side to be known for their defence in much the same way.

"Our house is built on that, we've been very strong this year," he said.

"We've prepared well, we're looking forward to that clash.

"And then we're looking forward to it opening up a bit and showing what we can do with the ball."

Perhaps 20-year-old rising star Radley best represents that mindset.

After just 16 first-grade appearances, the Clovelly Crocodiles junior is already somewhat of a cult figure.

A fortnight ago the Roosters faithful chanted his name as he came off the ground in their win over the Wests Tigers after cutting several opposition players down in textbook tackles.

Robinson described him as "confident but not cocky" but admitted he requested the coach replay his bone-rattling hits during team video sessions.

"It's something that he does but it's a Roosters style as well," Robinson said.

"That's what we do. You can win without the ball.

"It's not trumpeted in the way that people commentate on our game. People only look at 50 per cent of the game. They're missing half of it, the other half is the defence.

"You can win without the ball and that's why those players play in our team."

Griffin praised his side's ability to hang tough throughout a horror injury toll which this week saw Peter Wallace retire due to chronic knee problems.

"It's a credit to everything involved in the club, our development, our players - in the end it comes down to them and their desire to play for the club," Griffin said.

"Whenever we give someone a debut or ask them to play out of position, they always get the job done.

"To this point we're where we want to be."

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Panthers' 190 points conceded after 13 matches is their fewest since 1992 when they conceded 166 points through 13 matches.

* The Roosters will be aiming for four straight wins for the first time since round 24 to week 1 of the finals last year.

Source: Fox Sports Stats