The Roosters and Broncos have been waiting for this day to arrive, and now we will see both teams go full throttle at each other. The prize is a week off before they play for a spot in the 2017 grand final. Considering 13 out of the past 17 premiers have won the competition after enjoying this week off, it isn’t hard to figure out why this game is so important.
Last Time Out
The Roosters did just enough against the Titans last week to not only get the win, but secure a home final. But boy, didn’t they do it the hard way. The Roosters were down by 10 points with only 20 minutes to go and only got away with the win by scoring twice in the final 10 minutes of the game. It was always going to be a difficult game for the Roosters, as the threat of injury just before the finals was a real issue, but they still had to get the job done.
After the initial ten-minute period last Thursday night, the Broncos looked like they were going to put a huge score on the Cowboys after quickly scoring three consecutive tries. But as is the case with the Cowboys, they replied with a try of their own and started to come back into the game. But just on the stroke of halftime, the dreaded injury bug struck the Broncos in a big way, Darius Boyd tore his hamstring collecting a kick. This really slowed the Broncos attack and they finished with a dour 20-10 win.
Mitchell Pearce v Benji Marshall: The injury to Boyd has forced Wayne Bennett to reshuffle his team around, with the veteran Marshall now going head-to-head with the Roosters number seven. Pearce will be looking to have a big game and the Broncos will need to find a way to nullify his influence. Pearce owes the Roosters a strong performance in this finals series after the last couple of years. By the looks of it, he is determined to do just that.
Marshall, on the other hand, will be looking to do the job Bennett assigns him and not overplay his hand. This could get the better of him on the big stage, but Bennett would no doubt be reinforcing his message to Marshall all week. If he is solid and allows the other playmakers around him to do what they do, the Roosters will have a tough time. But he could also turn out to be the weakest link in the team. He may not win this game on his own, but he could lose it for them.
These two have played each other twice this year, with the spoils shared. But that really doesn’t matter as the finals are new competition and everything is ratcheted up to another level. The loss of Boyd will hurt the Broncos and they will need to play a different kind of game without his guile. Marshall is an unknown quantity but he wouldn’t be in the team if Bennett didn’t think he could do the job. Nikorima at the back should be expecting to be tested early and often with bombs from Mitchell Pearce.
All in all there appears to be too many things in the Roosters’ favour, especially when it comes to a settled line-up. That should be enough for them to enjoy a week off.
Roosters by six
“I’m not playing. Hammy’s, you can’t rush them. They’re tough ones to push. You want to be 100 per cent or you’re in risk of injuring it further. I’ll physio it this week and hopefully [be] right next week.” – Broncos captain and fullback Darius Boyd, coming to terms with the fact injury has rubbed him out of this week’s final.
“There was a bit of chat out there that we should pull our heads in because we didn’t want to go to Brisbane.” – Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce, regarding their come-from-behind win against the Titans last week.
Roosters: The Roosters will welcome back representative forwards Dylan Napa and Aidan Guerra after being rested last week. Zane Tetevano, via suspension, and Victor Radley will make way for the rep pair to return. Daniel Tupou has also been named in the extended squad after a stint on the sidelines thanks to a groin injury.
Broncos: Darius Boyd is out thanks to a hamstring injury. His replacement is Kodi Nikorima, whose place in the halves will be filled by veteran Benji Marshall. Tevita Pangai Jnr is also out with his own hamstring issues. Jai Arrow will take his place on the pine.
Roosters: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Joseph Manu 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Mitchell Aubusson 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Isaac Liu 14. Kane Evans 15. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 16. Ryan Matterson 17. Connor Watson 18. Zane Tetevano 19. Victor Radley 22. Mitchell Cornish 23. Daniel Tupou
Broncos: 1. Kodi Nikorima 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Anthony Milford 7. Benji Marshall 8. Sam Thaiday 9. Ben Hunt 10. Adam Blair 11. Alex Glenn 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh McGuire 14. David Mead 15. Jai Arrow 16. Joe Ofahengaue 17. Herman Ese’ese 18. Jaydn Su’a 19. Tom Opacic 20. Jamayne Isaako 21. Sam Scarlett
Referees: Matt Cecchin and Alan Shortall.
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Date and Kick-off Time: Friday 8th September 2017 @ 7.55pm