Wests Tigers v Roosters
Sydney Football Stadium
THE Wests Tigers test out their new home turf at the SFS this Friday night but you can bet your bottom dollar the Roosters’ fans won’t allow the place to become a friendly Tiger den.
Home-field advantage is actually conceded to the Roosters here – and it could be just the edge the redeemed Sydney side needs to continue their winning ways after last weekend’s somewhat surprise win over the Raiders in Canberra.
While it is early days in this competition and both sides have one win and one loss, the fact their losses were heavy have them at 12th (Roosters) and 13th on the competition ladder.
Both the Tigers and the Roosters are fully aware a win here will send them up the rungs while a loss will see them behind the eight ball. And in a competition this close it’s never easy to chase the pack.
The Roosters have lost fullback Anthony Minichiello to a serious ankle injury (12 weeks) which sees Sam Perrett move from the wing to fullback and Sonny Tuigamala get his chance on the wing.
Anthony Cherrington has been added to a five-man bench.
The Tigers are licking their wounds after being hammered 42-14 at the hands of the Cowboys last weekend. Tim Sheens wants more intensity from his side defensively after two weeks of leaking too many points.
But he has stuck solid behind the side that lost in Queensland, retaining the same 17.
Watch out Wests Tigers: After having a game under his belt big Willie Mason is ready to up the ante against the Tigers. The former Test and Origin star only had eight touches against the Raiders for very minimal input but with more confidence on his “new” knee Mason could be a real x-factor.
Last season Mason averaged 121 metres a game before his knee gave way. He had added nine line breaks, 75 broken tackles and 31 offloads in just 13 matches.
Big Willie is a footballer of pride. He would be well aware he needs to produce more for his team as one of its marquee players.
Watch out Roosters: The Wests Tigers will have picked up the scent when it comes to your vulnerability defending kicks.
Already, 40 per cent of the tries the Roosters have conceded have come from the boot. Consequently the Tigers won’t be afraid to test the tri-colours’ back three, especially now Minichiello is missing.
Grubber kicks and cross-field kicks have been the most successful against the Sydney boys so look for Benji Marshall and John Morris to apply plenty of pressure from kicks should their usual flamboyant attack fail to penetrate the Roosters’ defence.
Sydney coach Brad Fittler will have no doubt scheduled extra practice for his back three in an effort to nullify their worrying early season trend.
Where it will be won: The one percenters. Both teams appear to be evenly matched at this stage of the season. They are yet to hit their straps in attack and have revealed defensive lapses, so it will be the side that pays attention to the finer details that will come out on top.
Aspects like committed kick-chase, ball security and completion rates, pushing up in defence on both sides (regardless of where the ball is) and finding space with long kicks will be paramount.
The Roosters need to pay particular attention to Benji Marshall. The elusive half can slide between the smallest of gaps so if they fail to move up as a team Marshall will slice through and make them pay.
The Wests Tigers cannot underestimate the running power of Braith Anasta, particularly close to the line. Anasta loves to prove his strength and skill and should he see the Tigers’ defenders isolated, he’ll take control.
The History: Played 13; Wests Tigers 5, Roosters 8. The Roosters have won the past two matches between the two clubs and four out of five games at the SFS. The last time the Wests Tigers beat the Roosters was in 2006.
Conclusion: Both teams have shown erratic form early in the year, which makes this hard to tip.
The Roosters rebounded well to beat the Raiders in Canberra, which brings some confidence, and the Wests Tigers were pummelled in the far north which makes you think twice.
But the Tigers also beat the Raiders in Round 1 whereas the Roosters were smashed by South Sydney.
The Tigers’ backline potentially has more points in them – but can their forwards match it with the Roosters? It really could go either way and the Tigers can’t even rely on home-field advantage.
Get out the dart board, slap down the two logos in random places, blindfold yourself and hurl the darts!
Match officials: Referees – Tony Archer & Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Russell Turner; Video Ref – Bill Harrigan.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live from 7.30 (NSW), delayed 9.30pm (Qld); Fox Sports – Delayed 11.30pm.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.