Sydney Football Stadium
Now this is a rivalry!
While the intensity of the clashes between these two clubs might not be quite the standard we came to love between 2002 and 2004, the ferocity is still palpable when the Chooks meet the Dogs.
And now the added spice of top-eight survival is well and truly thrown into the mix, giving us a Sunday afternoon treat worthy of a massive crowd.
Weather put a dampener on the Roosters’ fiery clash with the Rabbitohs last weekend (at least in terms of crowd numbers) but the teams did not disappoint on the field, giving the best advertisement yet for those fans who are sitting on the fence about going along to a game.
Get to the ground, people! There is nothing like the feeling of being there to feel every hit and celebrate with like-minded fans. The early forecast has zero chance of rain in Sydney across the entire weekend, so now is the time to get out there in the flesh and help your side on their quest for glory.
For the Roosters, this match is a chance to solidify a place in the top four, and perhaps even climb to third after their close win over the Bunnies pushed them up to fourth spot.
They managed to string two wins together for the first time since the opening two rounds by beating the Rabbitohs – but can they get to three on the trot? Coincidentally, they faced the Bulldogs the last time they had won two in a row… and were smashed 60-14. Don’t think they have forgotten.
Winger Joseph Leilua is out of the side and will be replaced by Phil Graham, with the only other change seeing the return of Origin star Nate Myles at prop. His return sees Mose Masoe miss selection.
Braith Anasta plays his 200th NRL game, a fantastic effort but surprisingly not the main milestone of the day! (See below.)
Now… what about the Bulldogs? Are they back? Plenty want to say yes after three wins in a row have them 12th and just four competition points away from the top eight. But others are withholding judgment.
You see, the wins came over Canberra, Cronulla and an Origin-tired Storm side with little to play for… not quite the same as beating sides in the top four.
Nevertheless they have improved their performance and with some belief, hard work and a little bit of luck, they could well be on the roll to win six of their past eight and find a place in the finals.
You would think this one is crucial to their grand plans, though, as tough games against the Eels and Rabbitohs come in successive weeks – not to mention the Panthers/Manly double in the last two rounds.
They have picked the same side that held on against Melbourne, although fullback Luke Patten is in doubt following his heavy concussion.
Watch out Roosters: Brett Kimmorley lines up for his 300th NRL game, becoming just the 15th player in history to attain the ultra-impressive mark, and the first halfback to do so.
A veteran of 20 Tests for Australia and 10 games for New South Wales, the tenacious no.7 still hasn’t decided if this will be his swansong season, but the steel in the glare has come out at times this week and one senses the relaxed ‘Noddy’ is gearing up for an influential display.
So far this season the crafty playmaker has provided eight line-break assists and six try assists plus four line-breaks and three tries. He has averaged 298 kicking metres each week and still chases the ball down harder than most players in the competition.
With the enigmatic Ben Barba taking more defensive focus away from the veteran each week this could be the perfect chance for the Lakes United junior to pounce.
Maybe an omen bet for first or last try scorer?
Watch out Bulldogs: The Roosters are building plenty of their positive play off the back of an extremely accurate long kicking game and with inexperienced wingers and possibly a new fullback, the Bulldogs could be further exploited.
So far this season the three-pronged Roosters kicking attack of Todd Carney, Mitchell Pearce and Anasta are finding space on 68.9 per cent of occasions, the second best percentage in the NRL.
The Bulldogs on the other hand are ranked 14th in the NRL, finding open space just 52.6 per cent of the time. If this discrepancy happens throughout the match the Roosters are likely to win the battle of field position and the above-mentioned playmakers could run riot.
Where it will be won: Shift execution. This game will come down to which side’s shifts to the edges and sidelines are better than the other’s.
Both teams have put up impressive tryscoring figures on both sidelines but both are equally weak at letting them in in the same area. As both sides set up their wide shifts in attack, it will be the defenders who make the right decisions that will win this match for their respective sides.
Possibly the biggest weapons in this game are Mitch Aubusson for the Roosters and Jamal Idris for the Bulldogs. Both are attack-minded second-rowers playing on the edges, and both could bring in significant traffic as either a ball runner or decoy.
The history: Played 155; Roosters 76, Bulldogs 74, drawn 5. The Bulldogs have won five of the past eight games between the clubs, including a 60-14 drubbing earlier this season in Round 3.
At the Sydney Football Stadium the Dogs lead the head-to-head by the barest of margins, nine wins against eight.
Recent history points towards a blowout, with the average winning margin over the past six years being 25 points.
Conclusion: One could get on either bandwagon here and pursue a reasonable argument. The Roosters won tough last week and are now in the top four but the Bulldogs have won three straight and could be drumming up a fairytale.
Pick a number between one and 10. If it was even, tip the Roosters, if it was odd, give the Bulldogs a hope.
Match officials: Referees – Gavin Badger & Tony De Las Heras; Sideline Officials – Russell Turner & Henry Perenara; Video Ref – Sean Hampstead.
Televised: Channel Nine – Delayed 4pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 6pm.