Roosters v Warriors
Sydney Football Stadium
The Roosters a club in crisis? The Sydney press has tried to paint this picture when it comes to the Bondi brigade, with last year’s runners-up slumped in 13th spot – essentially equal last – with just three wins so far this year.
But the chooks claim there is no crisis; whether this is true or not, they have certainly been beyond disappointing in 2011.
While they managed to eek out a win against the Knights a fortnight ago they were deplorable last weekend in Townsville against the Cowboys, completing just 56 per cent of their sets in the 20-6 loss. The need to rectify their form, and fast, or this year will end up like the wooden spoon effort of 2009, rather than last year’s champagne stuff.
They come up against a Warriors side that have found their rhythm and are fresh off the bye.
Five wins on the trot have the Warriors in fifth spot on the ladder and they are eyeing off a berth in the top four if they can get six in a row for the first time since 2002. (Of course, that was the year these two sides battled it out in the grand final.)
The Roosters have lost winger Steve Naughton, with Rhys Pritchard coming into the side.
Jason Ryles will start at prop, as will Nate Myles, which sees Jared Waerea-Hargreaves return to the bench and Mose Masoe miss out altogether.
Tinirau Arona and Boyd Cordner have been added to the bench of five.
The Warriors have Queensland forward Jacob Lillyman back at prop, sending Ben Matulino to the bench. Lewis Brown is set to start in the centres, pushing Shaun Berrigan to the reserves.
Lance Hohaia and Ukuma Ta’ai are out, with Steve Rapira the new man on the bench.
Feleti Mateo and Brown have some minor milestones to be proud of: Brown plays his 50th NRL match while Mateo notches up game number 100.
Meanwhile one more try would see Anthony Minichiello (currently 104 tries) claim the title as leading all-time tryscorer for the Roosters.
Watch Out Roosters: The Warriors are likely to hit the right edge all night. In other words, the Roosters’ left-edge defence better be ready. Opposition teams have scored 13 tries against the Roosters on the right edge of the field, leaving the tricolours with the unenviable record of most conceded in the NRL. The kicker to this statistic is the fact the Warriors have scored 10 tries on the right edge this season, making it their most prolific area of the field – and giving them the second best record in the competition at posting points on the right edge.
Danger Sign: Young back-rower Elijah Taylor is really adding to the Warriors’ attack on the right edge. With Mateo killing it predominantly on the left side, opposition teams sometimes stack defence on his side. But Taylor is punching his own holes in the defence on the right and getting passes away to the likes of James Maloney and Kevin Locke, who love bobbing up on the right fringe.
Watch Out Warriors: Surely it is time for the Mitchell Pearce-Todd Carney combination to flourish again? The pair, who tore up the NRL late last year, are an absolute shadow of their former selves. But perhaps now, with their backs well and truly against the wall, we’ll see them come of age again.
Carney has just five line-breaks this year and only two line-break assists, three tries and one try assist… not Dally M material. Pearce has recorded nine line-break assists, eight try assists, one line-break and two tries. That said, the Warriors can’t afford to think ahead; they must pay them respect, keeping in mind last season’s form just in case they break out.
Danger Sign: Pretty simple stuff when it comes to the Roosters’ halves and their form. If they are running the ball to the line, they are usually ‘on’. Watch the involvement of the two early on… if they take the ball to the defence with ball out in two hands, they may just be on their way back to form.
But if they are just shovelling the ball on to supports, the side may end up going from penthouse back to outhouse in one season.
Plays To Watch: Mateo offloads (his 35 are most in the comp approaching the halfway mark), Kevin Locke’s kick returns; Anthony Minichiello running onto inside balls in search of try number 105; Braith Anasta trying to take charge on the edges.
Where It Will Be Won: Completion rates. The Roosters showed how critical it is to control the football last week when they were amateurish at best in the loss to the Cowboys. The Warriors might be coming in off five wins in a row but their last start was a lucky win considering they completed at just 55 per cent. (Thankfully for them the Rabbitohs weren’t much better on the day at 59 per cent.)
Over the course of the season the Warriors are completing 72 per cent of their sets. The Roosters are averaging 67 per cent.
The Roosters have made 149 errors this season, the Warriors 139.
The team that grinds it out first before getting flashy will win.
The History: Played 27; Roosters 10, Warriors 16, drawn 1. The Roosters have lost five straight against the Warriors and have in fact won just one game in the past 10 against their 2002 grand final rivals. And the Warriors won’t be afraid of playing at the Sydney Football Stadium either: they have won six and drawn one of their 12 matches against the Roosters. Earlier this season the Warriors pumped the Roosters 24-12 in Auckland.
Conclusion: Form gives you just one option. The Warriors have won five in a row – and they have won more games away than the Roosters have won anywhere all year. It’s not a foregone conclusion, especially as Brian Smith usually manages to inspire something in a ‘crisis’ situation… but if you are tipping the chooks it should be because you need an upset.
Match Officials: Referees – Jason Robinson & Alan Shortall; Touch Judges – Daniel Eastwood & Grant Atkins; Video Ref – Pat Reynolds.
Televised: Fox Sports – Viewer’s choice 7.30; delayed 9.20pm.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.