Schick Hydro Preview: Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm
Saturday, 7.30pm (AEST)
The league-leading Melbourne Storm meet the Sydney Roosters in an enthralling top-of-the-table clash at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.
Between them the two top-placed sides in the NRL share nine Origin representatives who are expected to back up from a brutal Game Two on Wednesday night.
The fallout from Game Two may have a significant factor on both sides' preparation ahead of a crucial clash.
However, on a four-game winning streak, the Storm take great encouragement after last week's epic 23-22 golden-point victory knowing they are fully capable of winning whether their Origin mainstays play or not.
It will be up to Melbourne's supporting cast to propel the side to victory amidst a tough representative period.
While the Roosters hope their Origin quartet of Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner, Blake Ferguson and Dylan Napa fully recover – physically and mentally – in time for Saturday, the rest of the side enjoyed the benefits of last weekend's bye after winning their past two clashes and four of their past five games.
Why the Storm can win: The Storm (12-2) sit comfortably four points clear at the top of the ladder as the NRL benchmark after Round 15. With their five Origin stars set to return from a stirring 18-16 Game Two victory on Wednesday night, the club is enjoying plenty of success with their feeder side Sunshine Coast Lightning sitting in second in the Intrust Super Cup. To say coach Bellamy has several selection headaches is an understatement – it's more like a thumping migraine. There is certainly strong contention for spots ensuring healthy competition within the side. Young guns Curtis Scott, Young Tonumaipea and man-of-the-match Brodie Croft showed they have a promising future in Melbourne but also proved they are more than ready to play first grade.
The Storm continue to reveal their gutsy character as their thrilling game against the Cowboys showed. They could've hung their heads after relinquishing an eight-point lead in the final three minutes when North Queensland forced the game into overtime. However they showed poise and maturity beyond their years to escape with the thrilling one-point win. Boasting the league's best attacking record with 319 points scored (22.8 points per game) and the second-stingiest defence with 212 points conceded (15.1 points per game), Melbourne possess few, if any, weaknesses for the Roosters to exploit.
Why the Roosters can win: The 10-4 Roosters are one of the few teams in the NRL that can hold their own against the powerful Storm. Minor premiers for three straight seasons before last year's disappointing campaign, the Bondi side has returned to their best in 2017. They will be determined to prove themselves as genuine premiership contenders and earn a landmark win.
The Tricolours hold the second-best attacking record (22.1 points per game) in combination with their fourth-best defence (16.3 points per game). There have been issues of providing a consistent 80-minute performance and there's no doubt coach Trent Robinson will have his side fully aware they cannot afford any lulls in effort against the league leaders. Their past two wins over the Brisbane Broncos (18-16) with Origin stars unavailable and Wests Tigers (40-18) were less than convincing but it was enough to get the job done. Moreover, Blues captain Cordner will be desperate to bounce back after Wednesday night's demoralising loss to the Maroons and sense an opportunity to gain some sort of retribution against the Storm and their Maroons captain and members.
 Telstra Premiership: Blake Ferguson vs Suliasi Vunivalu
Tackle Breaks, All Run Metres, Line Breaks, Tries.
History: Roosters v Storm: Played 32; Roosters 14; Storm 18. Melbourne won the two clashes between these sides in 2016 by a combined margin of 72-10, and have won their past three encounters. The Roosters hold a 2-3 record in matches outside of Sydney this season while the Storm are 1-1 at Adelaide Oval, having beaten the Bulldogs there in 2011 before losing to them in Round 18, 2010.
What are the odds: This is the most even betting game of the round according to the markets with Sportsbet. Fifty-two per cent of the money is with the Roosters, however there have been more individual bets on the Storm. Both sides have been backed to win 1-12. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Matt Cecchin, Alan Shortall Officials: Brett Suttor, Phil Henderson. Video Referees: Ben Galea, Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Fox League – Live coverage from 7.30pm (AEST).
NRL.com predicts: It's a massive clash for the Roosters who are determined for a big win over the league leaders. For the Storm, it's a valuable opportunity to keep a four-point buffer atop the table with their full complement of stars available. Even if they rest several of their Origin representatives, Melbourne always provide a quality performance that is hard to beat. Behind an in-form Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary halves combination, the Tricolours will have to be near their best to put themselves in position to obtain a crucial win. The key to victory will be between two of the NRL's premier forward packs. It'll come down to whichever side best manages the final 10 minutes but it's hard to go past the experienced Storm trio of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Smith. Storm by one.