Roosters v Storm: Aubusson, Jacks ruled out late
Talk about an even match-up.
The Roosters are sixth on the Telstra Premiership ladder with a 10-5 record, having scored 314 points and conceded 218.
Sitting one spot above are reigning premiers Melbourne with a 9-5 record. The Storm have scored a little more than the Roosters (325) and given up a touch less (215).
Both teams provided a large contingent of players to Origin and also had others players involved in last weekend's international Tests.
Hopefully this highly anticipated Friday night showdown scheduled for Adelaide Oval between two of the NRL's heavyweights doesn't end up being a watered down battle minus several stars. Coaches Trent Robinson and Craig Bellamy won't push anyone who isn't up to it, but you'd have to think the rep players – barring injury of course – will almost certainly be eager to back up for such a big game.
Unless they square off in the post-season, this is the only time these teams will meet in 2018.
Key match-up: No they don't play the same position, but former teammates Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith loom as the main trump cards for their respective sides. Cronk will be relishing the chance to match wits with his great mate in a game crucial to both teams' top four prospects. If anyone knows Cronk's game inside and out it's Smith, and he will make sure the Storm have a plan to minimise Cronk's influence.
For the Roosters to win: Since losing 24-8 to the Dragons in round eight, the Roosters have won six of seven games and this is exactly the kind of test Trent Robinson will use to gauge his team's form. Much of the turnaround can be attributed to their improved defence, while the Chooks' attack is also clicking better. They will have to be switched on in both those areas to beat the reigning premiers.
For the Storm to win: It'd be nice if Billy Slater declares himself good to go, but even if his dodgy hamstring prevents him from backing up after Origin II, the Storm should still field a strong team, with Jahrome Hughes showing he can capably handle the fullback role in Slater's recent absence. Smith and Craig Bellamy will make sure the Storm are ready to match the Roosters in a defensive grind and it'll probably be a low-scoring affair.
Roosters Stat Attack: The Roosters are in hot form and are chasing five consecutive wins for the first time since their run to the minor premiership in 2015. Blake Ferguson may have missed out on Origin selection this year but he's racking up some great numbers, leading the league in runs and metres and scoring four tries in his past two games.
Storm Stat Attack: Melbourne have had the wood on the Roosters in recent years, winning four of the past five meetings between the teams with Suliasi Vunivalu scoring five tries in four games against the Tricolours.
And another thing: It's not always easy to get worked up for the round of games immediately following an Origin, but a Friday night potential grand final preview should do the trick. You've also got the curiosity surrounding the first showdown between Cronk and Smith, a host of talent on both sides all over the park and a battle between two of the NRL's top coaches. Sounds like a recipe to cure an Origin hangover.
Match: Roosters vs Storm
Round 16 -
Venue: Adelaide Oval
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm, Friday 7.35pm (7.55pm AEST) at Adelaide Oval
Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 17 Matthew Ikuvalu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Luke Keary, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 9 Jake Friend (c), 10 Dylan Napa, 11 Victor Radley, 12, Nat Butcher, 13 Isaac Liu
Interchange: 14 Lindsay Collins, 15 Zane Tetevano, 16 Kurt Baptiste, 18 Sitili Tupouniua
Mitchell Aubusson is a late omission from the Roosters side, with Matthew Ikuvalu to start in the centres. Boyd Cordner (concussion) is out and Nat Butcher will start in the back row. Paul Momirovski and Frank-Paul Nuuausala joined Aubusson as the players omitted an hour out from kick-off. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves won't play following the delayed flight back from Denver, with Siosiua Taukeiaho returning in a straight swap at prop. Lindsay Collins and Matthew Ikuvalu are the new names on the bench. Mitchell Cornish, Billy Smith and Waerea-Hargreaves were dropped from the bench on Thursday night.
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 17 Jahrome Hughes, 8 Tim Glasby, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 16 Joe Stimson, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Kenny Bromwich
Interchange: 14 Brandon Smith, 15 Christian Welch, 19 Tui Kamikamica, 20 Patrick Kaufusi
Jahrome Hughes will start at halfback for the Storm after Ryley Jacks were left out of the side an hour before kick-off. Origin back-rower Felise Kaufusi was ruled out with an ankle injury on Thursday night, but the Storm expect him to be right for Origin III on July 11. Joe Stimson takes his place in the starting side. Young Tonumapiea and Cheyse Blair joined Jacks as the players left out an hour out from game time. Billy Slater (hamstring) returns at fullback with Jahrome Hughes benched and Sam Kasiano out. Ryan Hoffman starts in the back row moving Joe Stimson to the bench. Brodie Croft, Justin Olam and Kaufusi were dropped from the reserves list 24 hours out from kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 34; Storm 19 wins, Roosters 15 wins
Matches at venue: Played 1; Roosters 1 win
Previous result:Storm won 16-13 at AAMI Park in round 23, 2017
Points per game: Roosters 20.9; Storm 23.2
Points conceded per game: Roosters 14.5; Storm 15.4
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Steve Turner's prediction: The game of the round! Cooper Cronk returns to face his old mates and the Roosters are looking for their fifth straight win. The Tricolours have been impressive over the past month with Cronk and halves partner Luke Keary steering the ship and it will be a mental challenge for their Origin stars who are backing up. The Storm have been impressive of late with Cameron Smith the key to their success in 2018. The number nine will once again be called upon to be the difference on Friday. Tip: Storm by 4