Sydney Football Stadium
Cock-a-doodle-do! The Roosters are back in the top eight – but if they plan to stay there and become another wooden-spooner-turned-finals team they must learn to get some consistency in their performance and post a string of wins together.
The only time the Roosters have won back-to-back games came in the opening two rounds and since then it has been a spluttering campaign with moments of brilliance followed by plain, poor football.
The time for excuses is over, as they meet a Sharks side that has struggled throughout the season and who are in the midst of a coach changeover and a CEO jumping ship.
After beating the Gold Coast at Skilled Park last Monday night the Roosters are running seventh and a win here could catapult them into the top four with some favourable results.
However, a loss could see them heading south once more to a worse-case scenario of 11th at the halfway point of the year.
They have selected the same side for this clash, with James Aubusson added as an 18th man and potential inclusion.
The Sharks will have an air of desperation about them as time is running out fast if they are going to challenge in 2010.
Despite competing hard they were taken down by the Broncos last weekend and still remain in 15th spot on the NRL ladder.
The best they can hope for at the halfway mark of the NRL is 12th – and that would require a win here and some other results to go their way. They would still be a good run away from the finals zone but in better shape than if sustaining another loss.
While currently just four competition points and some significant differential from eighth, in all likelihood this will increase to six points with another loss and force the Sharks into needing to string together a four- to six-game winning streak just to get a look in.
Despite last week’s loss they will field the same side.
Nate Myles will make his 100th first grade appearance.
Watch out Roosters: Sharks enforcer Paul Gallen is on a mission. Fully aware New South Wales selectors will be on hand to watch, the Blues discard will be out to wreak havoc on the Roosters.
Averaging a massive 165 metres a match, Gallen will probably hit the 200-mark in this game, such is his desire to prove his worth. He also leads his side with 27 offloads; plus he’s tackling himself to a standstill each and every week.
If there has been a problem with ‘Gal’s’ game in 2010 it is lack of penetration, with not a single line-break forthcoming – but the odds are this will change here.
On a team note, the Roosters should also be prepared to be hit hard, as the Sharks lead the way in the NRL with 340 dominant tackles (the Roosters are last with just 165).
Watch out Sharks: Despite still being good for the odd error and poor defensive read, the improvement in the game of Shaun Kenny-Dowall since moving to the centres has been impressive.
The former Kiwi representative has the end-of-year Four Nations in his sights and as such is set to add to his stats which so far stand at six line-breaks, five tries, 53 tackle-breaks and 21 offloads. He is also averaging 117 metres each week.
With uncertainty in the minds of the Sharks’ wide defenders, this shapes as a game Kenny-Dowall could potentially tear to shreds if he is switched on.
Where it will be won: In the halves – but particularly the influence of Trent Barrett and Mitchell Pearce. Both men are on the Origin ‘maybe’ list and with the fact they both need to fire for their teams to play well, it will be their contribution that proves vital.
Pearce returned from injury last week to guide the Roosters to a win while Barrett, fresh from being an extra reserve in Origin I, was the Sharks’ best in their loss to Brisbane.
Pearce has notched up three line-breaks this year along with eight line-break assists, five tries and seven try assists, while Barrett has four line-breaks, five line-break assists and four try assists. He is yet to score a try but would have last weekend if not for a brilliant Darren Lockyer trysaver after a clever Barrett chip-and-chase.
The history: Played 78; Roosters 53, Sharks 24, drawn 1. The Roosters have won seven of the past eight against the Sharks and won both clashes last year by the same 19-12 score line. At the SFS the Roosters hold an 11-6 advantage.
In the past five matches the total match points have fallen between 20-35, so if you fancy an exotic punt maybe look towards this statistic.
Conclusion: If the Roosters are to be contenders this season they need to win this. The Sharks are mathematically in this title race, and will be for a few weeks yet, but the reality is this won’t be their year. They can thank the Storm for not putting them in a wooden spoon race.
They can certainly win this game but stick with the Roosters even though they struggle after Monday games.
Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Tony De Las Heras; Sideline Officials – Steve Chiddy & Michael Wise; Video Ref – Tim Mander.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7.30pm.