In the second Saturday National Rugby League finals series match minor premiers Sydney Roosters face 2016 premiers Cronulla Sharks at Allianz Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Prior to last week’s victory over the Eels, the Roosters had lost two in a row to the Raiders and Broncos. They were back to their best last week, with James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and Blake Ferguson producing one of their best performances of the season. Their entire backline ran for over 100 metres, with Ferguson amassing an unbelievable 314 metres in the clash. The Eels weren’t the toughest of opponents but the Roosters showed what they’re capable of.
The Sharks were made to work for it against a gutsy Bulldogs side but did enough to secure a top four finish, on equal points with all three teams above them. They’re finding some strong form at the right time of the year, and have plenty of experience throughout their side to make a serious run to the grand final. Valentine Holmes capped off his brilliant year with a try last week to take his total tally to 21 for the season.
The Roosters 17 is unchanged, with Victor Radley moving to lock, Isaac Liu into the second row and Mitchell Aubusson back to the bench.
Ricky Leutele returns in the centres, with Kurt Capewell returning to the bench. Jesse Ramien is a chance to return, named in the reserves.
The Roosters and Sharks met all way back in Round 5, with the tricolours stealing the two points thanks to a textbook performance from Cooper Cronk. It’ll be much different this time around as many believe we could be seeing these two sides again in three weeks time in the grand final.
The Roosters finished the season with the best defence in the competition, and they will need to rely on that strong pressure once again. The Sharks like to grind you down and allow the likes of Matt Moylan and Valentine Holmes to take advantage of tired defenders. If the Roosters can muscle up and not allow the Sharks forward pack to get on top, that will go a long way to getting the win.
The Sharks side is full of experience, particularly amongst their forwards. The key for them is still Wade Graham. He is so vital to the Sharks’ chances and they need him at his damaging best if they want to beat the minor premiers. Graham’s playmaking ability on that left edge is always dangerous and the more he gets the ball in his hands, the better the Sharks are.
There’s a lot of intriguing match-ups to keep an eye on in this match, but it’s hard to go past the battle of the fullbacks. After much discussion coming into the season, Valentine Holmes has made that fullback position his own and has enjoyed a career best year. Holmes has scored 21 tries this season, along with nine assists, 24 line breaks and an average of 148.8 metres per game.
On the other side, it took some time for James Tedesco to warm up but after a starring performance in State of Origin he has finished the year in some impressive form. He’s one of the most dangerous ball runners in the competition and is incredibly important to the Roosters’ chances this week and beyond.
Despite winning the minor premiership, the Roosters have made more errors than any other team. They’ll need to clean up their act as the finals are a completely different competition.
Sydney Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Luke Keary, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Warea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend, 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Isaac Liu, 13 Victor Radley
Interchange: 14 Lindsay Collins, 15 Zane Tetevano, 16 Mitchell Aubusson, 17 Ryan Matterson
Reserves: 18 Nat Butcher, 19 Sean O’Sullivan, 20 Matt Ikuvalu, 21 Kurt Baptiste
Cronulla Sharks: 1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Edrick Lee, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Paul Gallen
Interchange: 14 Kurt Capewell, 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Aaron Woods, 17 Jason Bukuya
Reserves: 18 Scott Sorensen, 19 Ava Seumanufagai, 20 Joseph Paulo, 21 Jesse Ramien
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday, September 8 2018
Venue: Allianz Stadium
Kick-off: 7:40pm AEST
WHO WILL WIN?
It’s almost impossible to pick, and it should go down to the wire. The Roosters are minor premiers for a reason but you just get this feeling the Sharks have been building really nicely toward the end of the season.
Sharks by 2
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