Best in defence not enough for Roosters

Scott Bailey

State of Origin is over and being the best in defence is no longer good enough for Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson.

The Roosters will aim to launch their end-of-season charge against Manly on Sunday, as they prepare to welcome back each of their Origin stars for the Lottoland clash.

With seven rounds to go until the finals, the Roosters know they have the chance to ram home their top-four advantage on Sunday.

The best defensive team in the league by the margin of just over a point per game, the Roosters are on track to be ranked No.1 defensively for the first time since they last won the minor premiership in 2015.

But Robinson has warned his chargers that there's still better performances left in them as the competition heats up.

"The Origin is done, we're into the last phase of the regular rounds and all that counts is Sunday for us," Robinson said.

"There are a few cogs for us to go up, and we want to start that Sunday.

"I know we're in a good position in defence, but there are still areas we're not happy with.

"No.1 might on the ladder (defensively), but that's not in our head. In our head is about are we at our best?"

Among the premiership favourites at the start of the year, the Roosters have hovered in the bottom half of the top eight for the majority of the season but are beginning to look dangerous.

They won four of five matches through the Origin period despite heavy involvement and last week entered the top four for the first time since round three.

Boyd Cordner, Latrell Mitchell and James Tedesco are all back from NSW duties, as is Cooper Cronk after he stayed home with his heavily pregnant wife last week.

Dyan Napa is also due back next week from a knee injury and Robinson said the time away for the Blues group meant there could be no excuse for fatigue.

"We wanted to make sure they recovered well enough - it's a tiring series mentally and physically," he said.

"Resting them last weekend meant that's done.

"They slot back in, they've had a physical start to training so they get right back in the groove for us."

Meanwhile Manly have proved a headache for a number of finals-bound teams this year, beating Brisbane, Penrith, Melbourne and almost toppling the Storm again last week.

"It's a shame we're not going to be figuring in the semis, because there are a few teams in there we know on our day we can beat," coach Trent Barrett said.

STATS THAT MATTER:

* Manly have won five of the last seven between the sides.

* The Roosters' strike-rate at Lottoland (25.5 per cent) is their worst at any venue.

* The Roosters' 239 points conceded through 18 rounds is the third least in the NRL era.

*Stats: Fox Sports Stats