Sydney Football Stadium
THE annual Good Friday blockbuster between the Roosters and Broncos always produces something special and this year’s clash should be no different in front of a likely bumper crowd.
In recent years the majority of the special moments have come to those wearing the Brisbane jersey, having won the past five Easter encounters, but the Sydney boys are buoyed from an impressive win over Parramatta and welcome back two very determined players.
Representative stars Willie Mason and Nate Myles return to the side after spending a week in the Newtown Jets’ jersey, something they won’t want to endure again after copping a hammering on a suburban ground on the Central Coast.
The Broncos come off their first loss, having been beaten by their former mentor Wayne Bennett and his Dragons side, but they still sit nicely in fourth position on the NRL ladder compared to the Roosters who are 10th.
The tri-colours have been extremely erratic over the first month of the season, going loss-win-loss-win and looking like two completely different sides. They’ll be hoping the positive version of the squad turns up Friday.
Iosia Soliola is out with an eye injury, with Setaimata Sa moving from lock to centre; Shane Shackleton goes from second row to lock and Myles comes into the second row.
Rohan Ahern misses out, while Mason and Ben Jones have been added to a bench of five.
Brisbane are without Michael DeVere who retired again this week after making his return to the NRL against the Dragons.
Four players in Lagi Setu, Josh McGuire, Ashton Sims and PJ Marsh have been added to the bench that currently houses seven individuals.
Watch out Roosters: The Broncos are coming right and they are coming hard.
Having scored nine of their 14 tries on the right side the Broncos obviously favour the right. And why wouldn’t they with right-side specialists like Justin Hodges and Israel Folau in their side?
Not to mention the trouble in defence Roosters winger Shaun Kenny-Dowell has shown over the first month. Only 54.5 per cent of Kenny-Dowell’s tackles have been effective, making him a prime target for the Broncos’ attack.
Watch out Broncos: The defence to kicks for the Broncos has been sketchy so far this season and needs to be improved otherwise the Roosters will pounce.
While the Roosters’ kick-defence has also been woeful, letting in six tries from the boot, the Broncos have failed to negotiate all types of kicks. So far they have scrambled well to ensure they haven’t conceded too many points but their inability to defuse kicks will increase errors and with that comes increased defence; eventually the brick wall won’t hold.
The Brisbane side has only defused 40 per cent of bombs hoisted their way and 50 per cent of cross-field kicks while they also failed to negotiate a banana kick.
The Roosters, though, are kidding themselves if they think they too won’t be targeted in this way. They are 100 per cent with bombs – but only 50 per cent with cross-field kicks… enter Israel Folau and his vertical leap.
Where it will be won: Across the ground. The Roosters need to lift their metre-eating as a team if they are to compete with the big guns this season.
Currently the side is the worst in the NRL in terms of average running metres gained, with just 1082 a match – with the Broncos 150 metres a game better at 1232 metres.
The Roosters have conceded an average 1274 metres over the opening month; while the Broncos haven’t been much better conceding 1261 metres a game, they’ll be aware the Roosters have struggled and as such they’ll be extra keen to get up fast in defence and dominate the rucks.
Nate Myles is the only Roosters forward averaging more than 100 metres a game at 104 metres so his team-mates need to lift.
Both teams have scored 10 of their 14 tries this season from inside 20 metres so it’s imperative they spend plenty of time attacking the red zone if they are to prosper here.
The History: Played 31; Roosters 11, Broncos 20. Brisbane has certainly had the better of the Roosters in recent times, winning seven of the past eight games between the sides and winning 12 of 17 clashes against the Roosters at the SFS. In terms of Good Friday clashes, the Broncos have won them all since 2004, with the Roosters last tasting success in the Easter of 2003.
Conclusion: While they played well against the Eels last week the Roosters will need to up the ante if they want to win their first Good Friday game in six seasons.
The Broncos fell short in the emotion of last Friday but they won’t go down in consecutive weeks without one hell of a fight. With the results over the opening month being anything but consistent, anything is possible – but the Broncos should have too much firepower.
Match officials: Referees – Gavin Badger & Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials – Russell Turner & Jeff Younis; Video Ref – Bill Harrigan.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live 7.30pm (Qld), delayed 9.30pm (NSW); Fox Sports – Delayed 1am.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.