Nicholas Janzen, NRL.com
Wests Tigers v Roosters
The NRL’s version of David and Goliath meet at Allianz Stadium on Monday night – and few before this bout are predicting the underdog to challenge here, too.
The Wests Tigers’ and Roosters’ seasons couldn’t be further apart in all aspects – one club has been ripped at the seams following internal dramas, player departures and poor performances, the other rightly believe they’re a premiership threat following 22 weeks of strong, consistent efforts, the support of a finely tuned football departments and very little off-field pressure.
The 15th-placed Tigers haven’t won since Round 16 – and they’ve left the field victorious in just six games all year. To say 2013 has been a disappointment is an understatement – that poor record, combined with the departure of club legend Benji Marshall to Super 15 rugby, means it’s due to go down as one of the worst years in the joint venture’s history, too.
The table-topping Roosters, on the other hand, are purring and haven’t lost since Round 14 – and they’ve been defeated in just four games all year! It’s been an unbelievable effort by rookie coach Trent Robinson and his troops, with the fresh-look squad including superstars Sonny Bill Williams, Michael Jennings and James Maloney, gelling as well as possible to make this year one of genuine excitement for everyone at Bondi Junction. Could a title be their destiny in 2013?
For the Tigers, dual international Lote Tuqiri makes a welcome return from an extended lay-off with an arm complaint to replace the injured Marika Koroibete (cheekbone – season). Bodene Thompson, Masada Iosefa and Matthew Bell have been added to what is now a seven-man bench that will need to be culled before kick-off.
The Roosters, meanwhile, welcome back brilliant back-rower Williams, who returns from a two-week suspension. His addition covers the loss of vice-captain Boyd Cordner, who underwent surgery earlier this week on his left ankle, injured against the Raiders in their win last week.
Watch Out Wests Tigers: Where do we start? The Roosters, for one, have conceded just 16 points in their three Monday night fixtures this season… and the Tigers have lost seven of their past eight matches on that day of the week, too! Combine that with the fact the Chooks are averaging their most number of points at Allianz Stadium in a decade (26 points per game) – and the Tigers have conceded 158 points in their past six matches – and it could become very one-sided here.
Watch Out Roosters: The Tigers can pull off an upset – just ask the Melbourne Storm, who witnessed it happen to them in Round 16 earlier this season. In pouring rain at Leichhardt, the Tigers stunned the rugby league world to beat the Storm 22-4 and play some scintillating football. They scored some brilliant tries too, especially the length-of-the-field effort set up by Tim Simona that saw centre Blake Ayshford cross. Tigers fans will be hoping the heavens open up once again.
Plays To Watch: The Roosters thus far in 2013 have proven the masters at doing the simple plays well – especially in attack. Look for James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce to double around the dummy-half to create an overlap when they’re in their attacking red zone – from there, they’re deadly. Against the Raiders last week it wasn’t a cakewalk though, some improvisation from Canberra’s offence kept the Roosters guessing – something the Tigers will note.
The Tigers looked at their best last week against the Eels when they decided to play expansive football – flamboyant football resulted in one early try and could have resulted in number others in the second half of the match. Their defence, though, was ordinary as usual – they consistently struggled when attacking patterns came charging at their defence, more often than not leading to grabs at air, broken tackles and points to the Eels.
Key Match-Up: Benji Marshall v James Maloney – an intriguing battle. The under-fire Marshall, heavily criticised for ‘modelling’ his new team the Auckland Blues’ jersey last week, has exactly four weeks left in league. Coming up against Maloney is a big challenge for the Kiwi legend – the Roosters’ No.6 has completely outplayed him in 2013. In try assists (15 to six), line-breaks (13 to four) and line-break assists (13 to five) it’s all the Bondi boy, but Marshall still has talent by the bucket load – if he rediscovers it here, leading his side to an upset isn’t beyond any stretch of the imagination.
Where It Will Be Won: With the league’s worst territorial record in the competition (just 1214 metres per game), it’s incredibly difficult for the Tigers to compete in matches. As an example, the Roosters make 1366 metres per match – and they’re only ranked 11th in metres gained! If Mick Potter’s men are to compete here, they need to halt the avalanche and make indents into the Roosters’ territory. If they don’t, expect the likes of Michael Jennings (who has scored 14 tries already this season – as many as the combined tally from his final two years at Penrith) and SBW to wreak havoc.
The History: Played 22; Wests Tigers 8, Roosters 14.
Match Officials: Referees – Gerard Sutton & Phil Haines; Sideline Officials – Brett Suttor & Brenden Wood; Video Referees – Gavin Badger & Luke Phillips.
NRL Live 2013 App: Gives you access to every NRL game this season on your iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone as it’s being broadcast on TV, with up to six live games each week, including the Wests Tigers v Roosters clash. Plus latest live scores, breaking news, comprehensive match highlights and full match replays.
Televised: Live – Fox Sports 1.
The Way We See It: On the surface, there are no doubts the Roosters should easily win this clash. But with one B. Marshall in the Tigers line-up, they’re always a chance. We’ll back the Roosters purely on their outstanding form this season… but we reckon Benji has a couple of five-star farewell performances left before the end of the season. Roosters by 18 points.
* Statistics: NRL Stats