Roosters v Sea Eagles Preview

Roosters v Sea Eagles
Sydney Football Stadium
Sunday 3pm

Now this should be one hell of a rugby league match! It’s fifth v sixth, two Sydney teams, on a Sunday afternoon. Winner guaranteed a finals berth, loser drops into dangerous territory… it doesn’t get much better.

The Roosters’ faithful need to come from somewhere to help this mob as with three straight losses they are heading in the wrong direction as the finals approach.
 
The loss to the Titans on Monday night makes a top-four finish very unlikely and instead makes it possible they could miss the finals altogether.

Even if they do make it, they know it will probably take two wins to ensure they finish up around fifth, while losses will get them closer to the guaranteed sudden death spots of seventh and eighth.

Despite the loss, they have named the same side from the Monday night loss.

Manly gutsed out a close win against the Warriors last week, which all but cemented their place in the finals. They are on the same points as the Roosters but are ahead on differential, meaning only two heavy defeats in the next two rounds would have them in danger of missing the play-offs.

Even so, they know a loss here puts them closer to the lower rungs of the top eight – a tough place to make a run from.

Should they lose they could drop to seventh and be forced to get the job done against the Bulldogs in the last round.

They have lost second-rower Shane Rodney for the season, which brings Chris Bailey into the starting side. Two-gamer Jamie Buhrer is the new man on the bench.

Watch out Roosters: The Roosters’ error rate is a real worry coming into this encounter. With 282 errors so far this season, the Roosters rank 10th in the NRL – this stat is making it tough for them to win close matches.

In some cases the errors are turning directly into tries, like Sam Perrett’s gaffe gift against the Titans. Considering the Sea Eagles have just 236 errors for the year and rank second best in the NRL, the importance of respecting the ball is even more important for the home side this weekend.

Todd Carney has the most errors with 37, followed by Anthony Minichiello (32), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (25), Mitchell Pearce (21) and Phil Graham (19).

Watch out Sea Eagles: Roosters coach Brian Smith loves constructing a game plan to suit the opposition and this week he will have his side hammering the Sea Eagles up the middle of the ruck.

Manly have conceded 28 tries up the middle – the most by any side in the entire competition – and Smith will look to make the misery continue.

Look for the likes of Todd Carney, Mitchell Pearce and Braith Anasta to turn inside balls back through the middle to willing runners like Anthony Minichiello. The halves will shape to go wide but turn the ball back inside to catch out lazy markers and big, slow, lateral-moving forwards.

Where it will be won: Composure appears to be the critical factor coming into this game. The Roosters’ biggest problem over the past two weeks has been a lack of patience. The side have tried to score off early tackles from all over the park, instead of calmly setting up chances and better field position. They need to build pressure and move themselves into good positions on the field before unleashing their attacking prowess.

The Sea Eagles know it takes patience to crack open a defence and will do their best to set up camp in the Roosters half. Rarely does Manly take a crack from distance; they instead do the simple things, get into position and then send the ball to players like Jamie Lyon and Tony Williams to do the damage.

Controlled football will win the day… not throughout the entire contest, but enough to give the attacking stars better launching pads to thrust from.  

The history: Played 115; Roosters 38, Sea Eagles 75, drawn 2. A win by Manly will see them double the amount of victories (76) that the Roosters have over them (38). Considering the Sea Eagles have won seven of the past eight between the clubs it is entirely possible.

At the Sydney Football Stadium Manly already have double the wins of the Roosters with a 10-5 advantage. The past eight games have not been close, with the average winning margin being by more than 27 points.

Conclusion: Manly comes into the match in better form than the Roosters – but don’t write off the tri-colours just yet. They are starting to reach desperation stakes and have the ability to play an up-tempo attacking game that could trouble Manly.

But Manly should still be favourites. They play measured football and defend strongly when it counts. The Sea Eagles are your best bet but if you need an upset you could go for it here, and have half a chance of success.

Match officials: Referees – Tony Archer & Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials – Russell Turner & Steve Carrall; Video Ref – Sean Hampstead.

Televised: Channel Nine – Delayed 4pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 6pm.