Brendan Wood previews the Friday night clash between the Wests Tigers and Sydney Roosters from Bankwest Stadium in Sydney in a bye-shortened round 16.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Tigers form has turned around in recent weeks. They haven’t set the world on fire, but they have found ways to win their last two games ugly. Michael Chee-Kam scored the match winner in the dying minutes to get them a huge 14-9 win last week against the Rabbitohs.
The Roosters are still searching for consistency after having their bye in round 12. They have dropped games to the Panthers and Storm but were able to smash the Bulldogs two weeks ago 38-12 without many of their star players.
Tigers squad: 1. Corey Thompson 2. Robert Jennings 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Esan Marsters 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Robbie Farah 10. Alex Twal 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Matt Eisenhuth Bench: 14. Jacob Liddle 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Elijah Taylor 17. Michael Chee-Kam Reserves: 18. Russell Packer 19. Chris McQueen 20. Josh Reynolds 21. Oliver Clark.
Mass changes for the Roosters this week. Origin stars Boyd Cordner and James Tedesco are out, with Joseph Manu moving to fullback and Nat Butcher moving to second row as cover. Siosiua Taukeiaho is out with a concussion but is replaced in the front row by a returning Jared Warea-Hargreaves. Ryan Hall returns to the starting side on the wing in place of Matt Ikuvalu who moves to the bench. Luke Keary is also a big inclusion, returning at five-eighth after missing the past few games with concussion.
Roosters squad: 1. Joseph Manu 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Brett Morris 5. Ryan Hall 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Victor Radley 10. Zane Tetevano 11. Nat Butcher 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Isaac Liu Bench: 14. Angus Crichton 15. Poasa Faamausili 16. Sitili Tupouniua 18. Matt Ikuvalu Reserves: 19. Daniel Fifita 20. Lachlan Lam 21. Sam Verrills 22. Drew Hutchison.
HEAD TO HEAD
This will be the second meeting between the two sides this year. The first being back in round 8 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. On that occasion the Roosters ran away with a dominant 42-12 victory. Overall head to head is also weighted heavily in favour of the Roosters. In the past 20 seasons, the Roosters have won 24 out of the 33 total meetings between the two sides.
Corey Thompson vs Joseph Manu, the battle of the fullbacks. Playing in a team that has tried multiple options at the fullback position this year, Corey Thompson has risen above his teammates and really cemented his place at the back by turning out exciting performances week in week out. He has the innate ability to make defenders miss with his agility and footwork and he often gets the Tigers sets off to a good start, making good metres on his kick returns and carries when the Tigers are coming out of their own end. Throughout the course of this season he has become the source of the Tigers spark in attack and he will be one player the Roosters will always need to keep an eye on.
Despite James Tedesco being out on Origin duty, Joseph Manu has stepped up into that role and ensured the Roosters have not lost too much in the way of skill at the fullback position. Of course, he will not be able to replace the void left by Tedesco, but Manu is one of the brightest young talents in the NRL. Much like Thompson, his ability to beat defenders with his speed and footwork is up there with the best in the game. He also has a lot of strength on his side and can fend and brush through tackles with ease.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 5th of July
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Referees: Henry Perenara, Matt Noyen
WHO WILL WIN?
These two sides look quite different to the first time they played this year, but does that mean there will be a different result? The Tigers have won two games on the trot, so they’ll have a bit of confidence, but don’t usually play very well at Bankwest Stadium. The Roosters are missing a host of their best players, but also welcome back Luke Keary. Night games at Bankwest Stadium tend to be low scoring due to the amount of dew on the surface. If these conditions are present again and the game turns into a defensive grind, the Tigers may have the slight edge in this one. Tigers by 2.