Bulldogs v Roosters Preview

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Brad Fittler's team analysis

Bulldogs v Roosters
ANZ Stadium
Monday 7pm

Let’s be completely honest… this isn’t the match of the round! But, it still has significance for both teams, as one vies for an unlikely but possible minor premiership and the other pushes hard to climb out of the dreaded wooden-spoon position on the NRL ladder.

The Bulldogs continue to win tough and if not for an interchange bungle and a poor video referee call they would be leading the competition right now.

However, as it stands, they are second, just a win behind the Dragons but now with a little more momentum after a great win in Townsville.

The Roosters are still struggling. They battle hard but still manage to get thumped, with the Sea Eagles the most recent side to give them a hiding.

But on the plus side, the Sharks are getting belted also – and now the Cronulla differential is just 35 points better than the Roosters, which means the side could lose the last three games but still offload last place if the Sharks also lose by a few larger margins.

This gives the Roosters extra motivation to stay in the contest, even if it gets a little beyond them.

Lopini Paea is out of the side, with Shane Shackleton set to start at prop and Nate Myles returns from suspension on the bench.

The Bulldogs will have Luke Patten back at fullback, which moves Hazem El Masri back onto the wing causing Daryl Millard to miss out.

Watch out Bulldogs: Complacency can be a killer; the time has certainly come to be building momentum and winning ruthlessly, rather than coasting over sides like was the case prior to the impressive Cowboys win.

With the Roosters obviously struggling and the Bulldogs already set to host a home final, you can see how easy it would be to ‘protect’ oneself a little in a game like this. But the home side can ill-afford such lethargy, as time is running out on perfecting patterns and plays. Plus, the Roosters are still fronting up as they try to avoid the spoon.

The game also sees the return of Nate Myles, who will no doubt be looking to make up for his forced hiatus with some big matches in the run home. Myles averages 98 metres a match but is yet to break the line or score a try this season, giving him something specific to aspire to.

Watch out Roosters: They may have won without him last week but the Bulldogs really gain something with the return of veteran custodian Luke Patten. Patten is a great link into the Bulldogs’ backline and with his 138 metres gained a match, nine line breaks, six line-break assists, eight try assists and four tries, he has certainly been a major contributor to their success in 2009.

A big part of Patten’s game is support play – if the Roosters are smart they’ll keep an eye on him and get a feel for where a popped pass or attacking raid may come from.

Where it will be won: It’s all about the left-side attack in this clash. Both sides love sending the ball left more often than right (it does make sense as most players can pass right to left much better then left to right) and this will certainly continue in this encounter.

The Bulldogs have been super prolific on the left side when it comes to scoring tries, with their tally now 49 for the year on the left compared to 25 on the right (they have scored a further 11 up the middle). This means that almost 58 per cent of the Bulldogs’ tries come on the left, 29 per cent on the right and 13 per cent up the guts.

The Roosters have a similar, if not more obvious, dependence on heading to the left. They have 39 tries on the left and just 16 on the right and seven up the middle. This equates to 63 per cent of their tries scored on the left side, 26 per cent are on the right and just 11 per cent up the middle.

The ball will obviously be heading left and the side who can keep up their proficiency, while still defending strongly, will take the cash.

The history: Played 153; Bulldogs 72, Roosters 76, drawn 5. With over 150 clashes in the history books the ledger is pretty even between these two sides, with the teams splitting the past eight games four each.

The Roosters have, however, won the previous two matches – both last season. If the Bulldogs’ 2009 form isn’t enough to keep the fans positive, they also have a 6-2 advantage over the tri-colours at ANZ Stadium.

Conclusion:
The Bulldogs should do it in a canter but the NRL is never certain. The Roosters have three weeks to rid themselves of the spoon and will keep trying – but if the Bulldogs cost you a tip here you have every right to be ‘filthy’!

Match officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Chris James; Sideline Officials – Daniel Eastwood & Peter Kirby; Video Ref – Russell Smith.  

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.