Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters
There will be State of Origin and International stars a-plenty when these two teams take to AAMI Park on Saturday night and the match-ups across the board make for a mouth-watering clash.
Roosters co-captain Jack Friend makes a timely return to the starting side against Melbourne captain Cameron Smith, Michael Jennings faces the in-form Will Chambers while potential fireworks loom between Jesse Bromwich and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
The Tricolours came and conquered to the tune of 20 points in Round 13 last season with Billy Slater again sidelined along with Cooper Cronk on that occasion.
Melbourne are chasing three straight wins, the Roosters are desperate to avoid three straight defeats making this contest all the more intriguing.
A dominant 15-minute second half display was all it took for Melbourne to hang on for a 14-10 win over the Raiders last week.
The Roosters on the other hand had four chances to beat the Broncos before a Ben Hunt try handed them a golden point defeat.
Trent Robinson has shuffled the cards at the selection table with Dylan Napa replacing the suspended Sam Moa, Sio Siua Taukeiaho starting at lock over Isaac Liu and Lagi Setu coming onto the bench.
It is another unchanged 1-17 for the Storm however their extended 22-man squad suggests that there are some sore bodies.
Watch Out Storm: Question marks surround the conditioning of the Storm team ahead of Saturday night. As good as they have been over the past fortnight, two consecutive six-day turnarounds could finally catch up with them. You add to this the fact Sydney has had an extra two days recovery and fitness could be a deciding factor if the contest remains tight heading into the second half.
Watch Out Roosters: The Roosters have had some big issues holding onto the football this season. They have committed 10 or more errors in all except one of their games, resulting in an average completion rate of just 71%, they rank a lowly 15th in the NRL for completed sets. James Maloney and Michael Jennings have had the case of the fumbles this season with six handling errors apiece, ranking them equal second in the competition. The visitors can ill afford to hand Melbourne possession, especially on their home paddock and with plenty of offensive weapons at their disposal.
Key Match-Up: Jesse Bromwich v Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. This heavyweight bout between the Kiwi internationals will be a fascinating one to watch. Bromwich is now an establish star of the competition whose prowess was on full display in a man of the match performance against the Raiders that included a game-high 259 metres, 33 tackles and three offloads. The hard-working prop currently ranks in the top five of the Telstra Premiership for hit-ups, total metres and decoy runs. However on Saturday night he better expect some in-your-face confrontation from Waerea-Hargreaves. The fiery Rooster is not afraid to walk the line, currently the equal third most penalised player in the competition and was certainly up for the physical contest last week against Sam Thaiday. With Sydney having the better of the Melbourne forward pack in both meetings last season, Hargreaves job in trying to halt Bromwich will be crucial and one that could well decide the outcome of Saturday night.
The History: Played 27; Storm 14, Roosters 13. Melbourne are just ahead of the ledger although Sydney have won the past two games by double-digit margins. History says the opening 40 minutes will be hugely important as the team leading at halftime has gone on to win the game in 16 of the past 17 meetings.
What Are The Odds: Storm $1.97 v Roosters $1.83.
Sportsbet punters believe the Roosters are due for a win, with more than three times the amount wagered on them in head to head betting against the Storm. Incredibly, Roosters 13+ is the most popular in margin betting.
Match Officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall. Touch Judges: Jess Younis and Ricky McFarlane. Video Referees: Bernard Sutton and Steve Folkes.
Televised: Fox Sports – LIVE from 7.30pm AEST
The Way We See It: Melbourne have played great football in recent weeks but this will be their third game in 13 days against a Roosters outfit who rarely lose three on the trot. Roosters by 6 points.