Sydney Roosters v Wests Tigers: Schick Hydro Preview
Sunday, 4pm AEST
The fact this game features 15th hosting 13th means there will be no shortage of desperation on Sunday afternoon at Allianz Stadium as both sides desperately try to keep their finals hopes alive.
With just two wins from 11 games things are already dire for a Roosters side that should be well-rested from last week's bye (other than Origin reps Boyd Cordner, Aidan Guerra and Blake Ferguson, who have all been named to back up) while the Tigers will be buoyed by last week's impressive upset win over ladder-leaders Brisbane (albeit minus their Origin stars).
With three more victories in the bag than their opponents this year, Jason Taylor's men are just a win behind the eighth-placed Panthers and if they can string a few together now can put themselves in a good position coming out of the rep period.
They get a further boost in the return of star fullback James Tedesco from a shoulder injury, while their two most senior players in Aaron Woods and Robbie Farah return from Blues duty. Jordan Rankin is the unlucky man to make way for Tedesco, with promising rookie Josh Addo-Carr retained on the wing. Dene Halatau and Tim Grant push back to the bench and JJ Felise and Kyle Lovett both go out to an extended bench.
For the home side, centre Dale Copley has made a shock early return from a pec injury at centre, meaning Guerra goes to his preferred second row slot and Isaac Liu back to the bench while Jared Waerea-Hargreaves moves to the starting side swapping with Sam Moa.
Watch out Roosters: The Tigers look a different side following the addition of Kiwi international Elijah Taylor. After an unhappy start to the year at Penrith the utility forward has added a mountain of polish to the club's attack and defence. His massive workrate off the ball (49 tackles last week) has been complemented by a surprising injection of attacking flair with a try last week and two try assists the game before. With all of Tedesco, Woods and Farah back as well this Tigers team suddenly has plenty of threats.
Watch out Wests Tigers: While the Roosters sparked into life in a big way immediately after halfback Mitch Pearce's return against Newcastle they took a step back the week after on the Gold Coast and things were pretty messy the following week against the Bulldogs as well. Back on their home patch with something resembling their strongest side available running out against a fellow bottom eight side it really is now or never for the Chooks. Look for their all-international back row of Cordner, Guerra and Sio Siua Taukeiaho to feed off Waerea-Hargreaves' return to the starting side and look to bully the Tigers through the middle third of the field to give Pearce a chance to show the form that helped guide this team to three straight minor premierships.
Key match-up: Latrell Mitchell v James Tedesco. Tedesco was the form player of the competition over the opening rounds and the fact the Tigers have picked up a couple of wins in the last two weeks without him is a bonus. His tackle-busting and try-scoring abilities will be a welcome reinjection for the team's playmakers. Young Rooster Mitchell has been a little bit rocks-and-diamonds as you'd expect with a teenage prodigy and despite a few errors last week his match-high eight tackle busts and two tries showed the threat he adds from the back.
The history: Played 27; Roosters 19, Tigers 8. The Tricolours have been a massive bogey team for Wests in recent times; the Tigers have lost the past seven straight to the Bondi boys with just one win (back in 2011) from the past 12 fixtures. The Tigers are also have one win from their past 11 trips to Allianz – many of those home games and just four of those against the Chooks – showing it's been an unhappy hunting ground for them in recent years.
What are the odds: Punters reckon Sportsbet have got it wrong by installing Wests Tigers as outsiders and they've jumped onto the big odds as a result. Three times as much money has been placed on Wests to win the game and Tigers 13+ is surprisingly the best backed winning margin. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match Officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant Referee: Gavin Reynolds. Touch Judges: Russell Turner and Tim Roby. Review Officials: Bryan Norrie and Jared Maxwell. Senior RO: Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live Coverage from 4pm. Fox Sports – Live coverage from 3.30pm (AEST)
How we see it: Two desperate sides, both outside the eight but with the belief they're good enough to be inside it. Which one will prove it? Both coaches have close to their best 17 to pick from. There is absolutely every chance the Tigers can get this one done but with their horrible record against the Roosters and at this ground in mind, we'll take the home team by six.