TWL RD 4 PREVIEW: WARRIORS V ROOSTERS

SYDNEY ROOSTERS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – 5.30PM (AEDT)/7.30PM (NZT) SATURDAY, MARCH 31 @ ALLIANZ STADIUM

The Storyline: It’s obvious the 2018 Warriors are a much different – a much better – team than every previous incarnation the club has trotted out in the post-Ivan Cleary era. Tough, gritty, fit and composed, while retaining the trademark Warriors flair – but utilised in responsible doses.

What’s also clear is the Warriors will need to lift another notch or two to extend their unbeaten start to 4-0 when they head to Sydney to take on the Roosters.

After a Round 1 wake-up administered by Wests Tigers, the Roosters have dismantled Canterbury and Newcastle. Last week’s 38-8 demolition of the in-form Knights was especially authoritative, with the Tricolours pack finding their groove and Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary tearing the defence to shreds on the back of a solid platform.

The Warriors’ start – convincing wins over Souths and Gold Coast, and one of the great escapes against Canberra – demands respect, but they’re taking on a far better-credentialed side this week than they’ve encountered to date.

The Roosters are unchanged, while Chris Satae replaces the suspended Sam Lisone on the Warriors’ bench.

The History: Played 38 – Warriors won 21, Roosters won 16, 1 draw.

READ: THE RIVALRY – WARRIORS V ROOSTERS

The Stats

-Manly and Brisbane are the only current clubs with a better all-time record than the Warriors against the Roosters.
-The Warriors are on a three-match winning streak against the Roosters, with each victory coming by four points or less.
-The Roosters have won three of their last four at Allianz Stadium against the Warriors.
-Of the last 16 games, 13 were decided by 12 points or less – including eight by four points or less.
-The Warriors are the only team Latrell Mitchell has not scored an NRL try against.
-Solomone Kata has four tries in four appearances against the Roosters – his best strike-rate against any club.

3 Key Match-ups

Shaun Johnson v Cooper Cronk: The two high-profile No.7s have waged some wonderful individual battles at NRL and Test level. Johnson boasted a 7-7 record opposite Cronk from his 2011 rookie season until his magical performance against the Storm in 2015, but Cronk has won the last eight straight since. Cronk has really hit his straps in the red, white and blue, while Johnson is enjoying his best-ever start to a season. But the Warriors linchpin’s match-winning effort at the death in Canberra masked a dinner-suit display in attack – Johnson needs to challenge the Roosters’ defensive line regularly and play more direct, which is the only way Cronk knows how.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck V James Tedesco: The former champion Roosters fullback squares off against the new champion Roosters fullback. After a poor club debut, Tedesco has thrived in the Roosters’ two big wins – but how will he go if it’s a tight, tough one? Tuivasa-Sheck is leading the Dally Ms and has arguably been the NRL’s standout player of the opening three rounds, dominating several statistical categories. RTS has been a frequent stud at both ends of the field; Tedesco’s form has been patchy in comparison.

Tohu Harris V Boyd Cornder: Just one point behind his skipper in the Dally M standings, Harris is right up there in the ‘buy of the year’ chatter – the Warriors’ hardest-working defender and a revelation in attack on the right edge. It’s been an understated start to 2018 for Roosters captain Cordner, but an individual match-up with Harris should bring out the best in the NSW and Australia second-rower.

Under the Pump: It’s hard to categorically assess the start of Adam Blair’s stint in Warriors colours. On one hand, his leadership and presence has been lauded – many are giving him a decent slice of the credit for the Warriors’ turnaround. On the other, his numbers stink. He’s averaging 55 metres and 21 tackles a game, while last week in Canberra he recorded just three runs. Stats are not the be all and end all, but the Warriors need greater production out of a marquee front-rower/lock.

Last Time They Met: Despite finishing 13th while the Roosters surged back to second, the Warriors snared a heart-stopping victory in 2017, with a last-minute penalty goal to Shaun Johnson sealing a 14-13 success at Mount Smart Stadium.

Why We’ll Win: The Warriors have revelled with the underdog tag so far, proving again last week without a shadow of a doubt that they rank with anyone in the NRL in terms of fitness and defensive commitment. All four members of the spine are among the top two or three players in their positions form-wise and confidence is high across the board. The Warriors also boast a handy record against the Chooks and should have some solid crowd support at Allianz.

Why We’ll Lose: If they fall short in discipline and execution as they did against the Raiders, the Warriors will get picked off easily by the Roosters. The Roosters boast far more firepower and far better key-position players than any of the Warriors’ previous opponents, and they approach this game in ominous form. Another tentative outing in attack from Johnson would cripple the Warriors’ bid for another boilover.

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Head-to-head: Raiders $1.75, Warriors $2.00 (Line: Raiders -1.5).

The under is 19 of 31 when the Roosters are favoured at Allianz. The Roosters have covered just 1 of their last 7 off a win of 20-plus. The Warriors have covered just 5 of their last 15 in Australia. The Warriors have covered just 1 of their last 9 night games in Australia. The under is 9-1 in Warriors night matches where they are an underdog of 8+. The under is 14-5 when the Warriors have won three straight. FULL TAB BETTING PREVIEW

Tips – Warriors +9.5 @ $1.87
Warriors 12 & Under @ $4.25
Under 42.5 @ $1.87
Half/Full Time Double – Tie/Warriors @ $21
Solomone Kata To Score a Try @ $3.50
Luke Keary To Score a Try @ $3.20
Either Team 6 & Under or Draw @ $3.00

LISTEN: TAB NRL PODCAST – THE ADVANTAGE LINE

The Verdict: This has all the hallmarks of a classic. Along with the Dragons and the Tigers, these sides have been the early-season standouts in the NRL and are both riding a wave of confidence. The Roosters have a bit more size and variety in the pack and strike out wide, but that disadvantage wasn’t a problem for the Warriors last week. With RTS, Luke, Green and a recalibrated Johnson calling the tune, it’s the Warriors in a thriller for us. Warriors by 4

 

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