Schick Hydro Preview: Roosters v Wests Tigers
Geographically, this shapes as a battle between Sydney's east and west. Ladder-wise, it's a clash between north and south. But on form, there's very little to separate the Roosters and Wests Tigers ahead of Saturday's showdown at Allianz Stadium.
In fact, despite sitting in 15th spot on the ladder, the Tigers have won two of their past three matches while the Roosters have managed just one win in that same period.
That said, there's been a lot to like about Trent Robinson's side in 2017 who sit in third spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder in spite of last week's encouraging defeat at the hands of the table-topping Melbourne Storm.
Well and truly out of finals contention, the black and golds still have plenty to play for as they aim to fight off the Knights for the dreaded wooden spoon. The spirit shown during last week's come-from-behind win over the Sea Eagles – a team the Roosters lost to recently – highlights the fight within Ivan Cleary's squad.
The Roosters have received a huge boost with fullback Michael Gordon set to return from a pec injury. His inclusion forces the in-form Connor Watson to the bench and Joseph Manu out of the 17.
The Tigers have named Chris Lawrence in the second row but there is strong mail that he will drop out of the side with Michael Chee-Kam tipped to start and Josh Aloiai expected to come onto the bench.
Why the Roosters can win: The Roosters have scored 89 more points than the Tigers, they've conceded 131 fewer points and they've claimed eight more victories in 2017, but that's only scratching the surface when it comes to this east v west rivalry. The Tricolours have won the last nine matches against the Tigers by an aggregate score of 361-120 and have scored 30+ points in all of those games. Only two players (Chris Lawrence and Aaron Woods) featured in the Tigers' most recent win over the Roosters which saw them claim a 19-12 come-from-behind win at Leichhardt Oval in 2011. Thankfully for the Tigers, Daniel Tupou (12 tries from seven matches) won't run out for the Roosters.
Why the Wests Tigers can win: They were exposed around the ruck by the Sea Eagles a fortnight ago and you can expect the Roosters to face plenty of traffic through the middle against the Tigers on Saturday. Trent Robinson's men struggled to contain Manly's speed around the ruck, with Lewis Brown and Tom Trbojevic both claiming tries through the middle, so look to the Tigers to dart out of dummy-half and test the inside defence with short balls to James Tedesco. The Tigers are ranked fourth in total dummy-half runs (306) and dummy-half metres (2813) while the Roosters are last in both categories with 105 carries for 787 metres.
The history: Played 29; Roosters 21; Wests Tigers 8. The Roosters have won nine on the trot and 13 of the past 14 matches against the Tigers, including a 40-18 win at Campbelltown Stadium in Round 14.
What are the odds: The smaller bets with Sportsbet have been on the Wests Tigers, but the big bets are all with the Roosters. Roosters 1-12 is actually more popular than Roosters 13+ so we can expect another big performance from the Tigers according to the market. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assist referee: Chris James. Sideline officials: Tim Roby and Russell Turner.
Televised: Fox Sports 2 – Live coverage from 5:30pm.
NRL.com predicts: With a top two finish still on the cards, expect the Roosters to continue their impressive record over the ever-improving Tigers. It won't be as comfortable as their recent clashes, but they should still get the job done by 14 points.