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Roosters v Wests Tigers
Sunday 3pm

You have got to love the NRL! Last year the Roosters were a rabble and the Wests Tigers missed the finals, but a new year brings new hopes and sure enough, both teams start 2010 with wins.

The Roosters were awesome in putting the big-talking Rabbitohs on their backsides 36-10, while the Wests Tigers looked terrible at times against Manly but threw in some flashes of brilliance to storm home and take the result 26-22.

If we get nice weather on Sunday, and the early forecast suggests we may, we will be in for a real treat here.

Both teams love to throw the football around and with players like Todd Carney and Benji Marshall on either side it should be a ripper of a contest.

It’s also Family Fun Day with face painters, jumping castle, mascots, Healthy Harold making an appearance – and all kids will be allowed on the hallowed SFS turf after the match, so get your tickets early.

The home-side Roosters have a few changes: Tom Symonds is out injured, with Aidan Guerra to come into the starting side, while Brian Smith is keeping his cards close to his chest by naming a seven-man bench.

The new faces are Ben Jones, Sonny Tuigamala, Brad Takairangi and Joseph Leilua.

The Wests Tigers have named an unchanged line-up for the clash but are likely to be without winger Beau Ryan after a crusher tackle has him facing three weeks on the sideline.

Watch out Roosters: Lote has lost nothing, it seems. Mr Tuqiri took about four minutes to announce himself back in rugby league with a try and by match end he had two line-breaks and 145 metres gained.

Sure, there was a bit of rust, but he also sent Brett Stewart to the casualty ward by pummelling over the top of him like a freight train (Stewart is now gone for five months).

There is a chance for the Roosters to exploit him defensively – but they should keep the ball away from him if possible in attack, because his athleticism and size are still phenomenal.

Watch out Wests Tigers: Wow! Todd Carney at fullback… seems a masterstroke by Roosters coach Brian Smith.

Carney, a former half, slotted into the backline expertly throughout the contest as a playmaker and ball runner… and was brilliant. He ran for 144 metres, kicked for a further 190 metres, registered two line-breaks, five tackle-breaks and a try assist.

Actual halfback Mitchell Pearce was also pretty impressive in Round 1 with two tries and a try assist, giving the Wests Tigers plenty of headaches as they prepare for this clash.  

Where it will be won: Defence. We know both of these teams can attack. The Roosters scored six tries in Round 1 and the Wests Tigers bagged five – but it’s stopping them where games are won.

The Roosters allowed South Sydney to cross twice while the Wests Tigers allowed Manly to get three tries past them, which wasn’t particularly bad, except poor discipline also allowed a few penalty goals.

In terms of effective tackles, the Roosters were effective 93.7 per cent against the Rabbitohs with just 17 missed tackles and zero ineffective tackles. The Wests Tigers notched 87.5 per cent effectiveness with 20 missed tackles and 21 ineffective tackles.

But the Tigers were a lot more aggressive in their defence, with 21 dominant tackles and one big tackle, while the Roosters didn’t register a single dominant or big tackle.

Tim Sheens will have to warn his men about further penalty problems, considering they tallied 12 ‘flops’ in the game, an event punishable if sighted by the referees.

The History: Played 15; Roosters 8, Wests Tigers 7. The Wests Tigers have won five of the past seven between the teams, including two matches last season. The record at the SFS reads Roosters four wins, Tigers three wins.  

Conclusion: If the Roosters can replicate their defensive effort from last week they are in the box seat to be two from two at round end. But the Wests Tigers are in this one up to their eyeballs.

They took a while to get going against the Sea Eagles but showed they can put on rapid-fire points if given a chance. They will need to be more disciplined in defence, and with the referees, to be in front at fulltime but they certainly have the ability to do so.

The game should be extremely entertaining and could provide highlights we’ll be watching for years to come, so if you are in the area, get out there.

Match officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials – David Abood & Paul Holland; Video Ref – Paul Simpkins.

Televised: Channel 9 – delayed 4pm; Fox Sports 2 – delayed 6pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.
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