Roosters v Wests Tigers: Matterson out, Grant to start for Tigers
The Roosters stumbled their way through the first half last week against the Titans before catching fire in the second half with 28 unanswered points for a 34-14 victory.
But despite their dominance after the break, it still left a feeling that the Chooks have a difficult task on their hands to catch the likes of Penrith, the Dragons, Souths and Cronulla.
They were upset 10-8 by the Tigers in the season-opener and might find this round 13 meeting even harder given that they have Boyd Cordner, Dylan Napa, Latrell Mitchell and James Tedesco all on Origin duty.
The Tigers showed once again that they are capable of finishing in the top eight with last week's gritty come-from-behind win over the Bulldogs. They will basically be at full strength with no players on Origin duty and will be relishing the chance to complete a 2-0 regular season sweep of the Chooks.
Plenty is at stake, with both teams heading into the round 13 clash with identical 7-5 records.
Key match-up: With his team short of Origin stars, classy playmaker Cooper Cronk has to deliver his best performance of the season for the Roosters. He has a tough battle on his hands against Luke Brooks, while the clash between Luke Keary and Benji Marshall should also be a ripper. The kicking games of both teams will be crucial and Cronk could be the difference.
Match: Roosters vs Wests Tigers
Venue: Allianz Stadium
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
For the Roosters to win: Ambushed by a defensive-minded Tigers in a surprise round one loss, the Roosters won't be caught off guard this time. But last week's clash with the Titans showed the Chooks occasionally struggle with slow starts. They have to hold their own against a strong Wests pack and allow Keary and Cronk time to create scoring chances.
For the Tigers to win: There's no reason why coach Ivan Cleary shouldn't follow the same blueprint that he used to upstage the Roosters in their previous meeting. But it can't just be all about defence. The Tigers need to find the confidence in attack that was apparent in earlier big wins over Manly and Parra.
Roosters stat attack: The Roosters have won their past nine games against the Tigers at Allianz Stadium. Forward Isaac Liu is in a rare purple patch in terms of try-scoring, collecting a four-pointer in each of his past four games.
Tigers stat attack: Utility Elijah Taylor chalks up his 150th NRL game on Sunday. The Tigers haven't tasted victory at Allianz Stadium in six years.
And another thing: This game will obviously be a good test for both teams, but it's the Roosters that have the chance to make the loudest statement. They are one of four teams with a 7-5 record and might find it difficult without four Origin reps. On the other hand, if they take care of the Tigers in what would be a minor upset, it could be just what the Roosters need to trigger a strong run over the second half of the season.
Sydney Roosters v Wests Tigers, Sunday 4pm at Allianz Stadium
Roosters: 1 Blake Ferguson, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Joseph Manu, 4 Mitchell Aubusson, 5 Matthew Ikuvalu, 6 Luke Keary, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend (c), 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11 Victor Radley, 17 Nat Butcher, 13 Isaac Liu
Interchange: 15 Zane Tetevano, 16 Frank-Paul Nuuausala, 17 Kurt Baptiste, 19 Lindsay Collins
Ryan Matterson withdrew on Saturday, allowing Nat Butcher to get a starting spot in the forwards. With James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell, Boyd Cordner and Dylan Napa all on Origin duty, Blake Ferguson moves to fullback and Joey Manu shifts in to centre with a new wing pairing of Daniel Tupou (returning from a long-term pec injury) and debutant Matthew Ikuvalu. Jared Waerea Hargreaves starts at prop and Victor Radley in the second row, with Isaac Liu at lock and Frank-Paul Nuuausala recalled on the bench. Mitch Cornish was cut from the reserves on Saturday afternoon, while Poasa Faamausili and Paul Momirovski were omitted an hour before kick-off.
Tigers: 1 Tuimoala Lolohea, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Mahe Fonua, 5 Corey Thompson, 6 Benji Marshall, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Elijah Taylor, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence (c), 12 Michael Chee-Kam, 17 Tim Grant
Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 15 Josh Reynolds, 16 Josh Aloai, 13 Matthew Eisenhuth
Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has made one game-day change, promoting Tim Grant to start at lock in place of Matt Eisenhuth, who will come off the bench. The Tigers have no players on Origin duty. Chris McQueen and Kevin Naiqama were cut an hour before kick-off, while Pita Godinet and Sauaso Sue were trimmed from the reserves on Saturday.
Head-to-head: Played 31; Roosters 22 wins, West Tigers 9 wins
Matches at venue: Played 16; Roosters 13 wins, Wests Tigers 3 wins
2017 results: Roosters won 40-18 at Campbelltown Stadium in round 14; Roosters won 22-18 at Allianz Stadium in round 24
Points per game: Roosters 20.7; Wests Tigers 15.7
Points conceded per game: Roosters 15.2; Wests Tigers 14.8
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Steve Turner's prediction: The Roosters' second half was impressive last week, but it's about the 80-minute performance that Trent Robinson will be focusing on this weekend against the Wests Tigers. They will be without a number of stars due to origin commitments, but still have Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk on board. The Tigers clawed their way to a win on the weekend, but they have struggled to find consistency in 2018. It's an important game for both who sit at the bottom of the top eight on the same points.
Tip: Roosters by 8