MATCH PREVIEW | Sydney Roosters vs Melbourne Storm

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Mitch Dransfield previews the blockbuster preliminary final between the Sydney Roosters and the Melbourne Storm at the SCG.

TEAM FORM GUIDE

Sydney Roosters

Sydney found themselves against their traditional rivals Souths in their opening qualifying final after losing to them in round 25. They regained crucial players in their first finals match to cruise past the Rabbitohs 30-6.

Melbourne Storm

The upset loss to Canberra in week one didn’t sit well with the minor premiers, who featured in the second week against the Parramatta Eels. The home side rarely lose back-to-back at home, let alone in finals. They put the rest of the finalists on notice with a thumping 32-0 win to book themselves another grand final qualifier.

SQUAD NEWS

Sydney Roosters

Jared Warea-Hargreaves is suspended for this fixture, with Siosiua Taukeiaho promoted into the starting side. Lindsay Collins moves onto the bench while Sam Verrills’ spot is up in the air with Jake Friend returning to the reserves.

Sydney Roosters’ Squad: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Isaac Liu 9. Sam Verrills 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Victor Radley 14. Angus Crichton 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Nat Butcher 17. Lindsay Collins 18. Sitili Tupouniua 19. Drew Hutchison 20. Jake Friend 21. Ryan Hall.

Melbourne Storm

There are no changes for Craig Bellamy’s team, with Curtis Scott retaining his centre position over Will Chambers, who retains last week’s bench spot.

Melbourne Storm’s Squad: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Curtis Scott 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tui Kamikamica 16. Max King 17. Will Chambers 18. Marion Seve 19. Joe Stimson 20. Tino Faasuamaleaui 21. Sandor Earl.

HEAD TO HEAD

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This preliminary final was earmarked as the likely grand final once again, however the slip up by Melbourne in the first round of the finals has booked a critical head-to-head: while they’ve had the best records, finishing first (Melbourne) and second (Roosters), only one can make the grand final.

The scores are level throughout 2019 with the Roosters coming away with a one-point victory on Easter Friday night, courtesy of a Latrell Mitchell field goal from forty metres out in Golden Point. Their second match-up in Adelaide had the Storm winners 14-12 after a controversial late penalty allowed Cameron Smith to slot the winning goal.

Outside of the Roosters’ dominant performance in the grand final (winning 21-6), these games have been decided by 3 points or less and the quality has been a step above other sides.

KEY BATTLE

Luke Keary v Cameron Munster

It’s hard to go past a key battle between arguably the best playmakers in the competition in Luke Keary and Cameron Munster. These two superstar five-eighths steer their sides in attack, with both being highly regarded representative halves who will go head-to-head in a tough clash.

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Although missing some game time throughout this season, Keary has been one of the most damaging players in the competition. The Roosters’ five-eighth has been able to gel together even more so with his spine this year because of the responsibilities falling on his shoulders. Keary has only lost four games this year; with a jack-of-all trades game style, the pivotal half has accumulated 22 try assists, 19 line break assists and averaged over 230 kick metres, which has taken his game to another level, having many traits to fall on when his side needs points or momentum.

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A lock-in player for all representative footy, Cameron Munster has been as consistent as any other player this year. Having played nearly every match, Munster has been clinical alongside his captain Cameron Smith with his short kicking game forcing eleven drop outs and being the focal point in one of the most damaging edges in the NRL. He’s been a part of 15 try assists and 14 line break assists. This game should bring out the best in the Storm five-eighth; with his strengths being in broken play and playing the defence of the opposition, he should find plenty of ball coming his way and with his smarts should really trouble the right side line of Roosters, especially inside their twenty metres where he tends to make the right call, either getting a repeat set or setting up a try for his outside men.

THE IMPORTANT DETAILS

Date: Saturday, 28th September
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
Kick-off: 7.50pm
Referee: Gerard Sutton and Adam Gee

WHO WILL WIN?

 

A fresh Sydney side at home looks to be the likely winner with how clinical and strong they’ve been in defence. They seem the real deal to try and push for their second premiership in as many years. The Storm will need to break their opposition’s amazing run at the SCG in their first ever visit; the impressive performance last week should not be overlooked with Melbourne making changes but also putting together close to their best match of the season. This preliminary final will go down to the wire with both sides’ defence being close to impossible to penetrate. The other aspect of their games is attack, which is where the Roosters have the slight edge in recent weeks with such fluidity. A battle will be had from the middles, but even it will then be up to the work of the halves. Cooper Cronk has the opportunity to beat his old side one more time before reaching the grand final alongside Luke Keary (Cooper and Keary are a better combination than Munster and Jahrome Hughes). That should be enough to get the Roosters over the line.

Prediction: Roosters by five.

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