SYDNEY ROOSTERS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – 4.00PM (NZT)/2.00PM (AEST), SUNDAY, AUGUST 18 @ SYDNEY CRICKET GROUND
The Storylines: The Warriors are nothing if not an unpredictable hot mess of frustration and inspiration. Always have been. After a season-worst 46-12 hammering at the hands of Canberra in Round 20, another emphatic beat-down from equally in-form Manly seemed inevitable.
But the Warriors responded with their best performance of 2019, a gritty 26-18 win over the Sea Eagles underpinned by extraordinary defensive commitment – holding their opponents scoreless until the 67th minute, when they were farcically left a man short for 10 minutes – but also laced with some breath-taking attack.
Rookie half Chanel Harris-Tavita provided a couple of memorable pieces of the former and a liberal helping of the latter, pulling off a monster shot on Tom Trbojevic and producing two sizzling try-assists. CHT shall henceforth be known as ‘The Future’. Even Stephen Kearney’s head-scratching selection policies won’t see the 20-year-old moved from the starting team before the end of the year.
The upshot of the result (and others around the NRL) is that the Warriors are still alive in the finals race with a month of the regular season to go. In fact, three wins from their last four matches – albeit in four ultra-tough assignments – will probably be enough to squeak into the Top 8.
A win in Sydney over the Roosters would transform their playoffs push from pipe dream into distinct possibility.
The defending champs are coasting in second without setting the world on fire. They’re missing a couple of stars, but some of the galaxy of big guns are firing – James Tedesco, in particular – and the team looks like its timing its run. With biggest fish to fry, this could be a good time for the Warriors to encounter the Roosters.
The Warriors have been outstanding on the road this season, losing only three (all very narrowly against quality teams) of their last nine away from Auckland.
Last week’s gutsy effort has undoubtedly inflated Warriors fans’ confidence to unrealistic levels – but they unmistakably have provided the faithful with something to believe in again.
Ins and Outs: Kodi Nikorima has been named on the extended bench but is expected to come into the game-day 17. He will join the interchange at Adam Keighran’s expense and play as dummy-half back-up, allowing the Warriors to ride Chanel Harris-Tavita’s form wave in the halves.
The Warriors named an unchanged side, though Sam Lisone was unused on the bench last week and it could be an option to bring Leivaha Pulu in – especially given starting hooker Jazz Tevaga will spend time as a middle forward.
The Roosters have also named an identical 17 to the one that accounted for the Raiders, but captain Boyd Cordner is listed in the reserves and is rated a chance of returning. Sio Siua Taukeiaho remains sidelined.
The History: Played 40 – Warriors won 22, Sydney Roosters won 17, draws 1
-The Warriors have won four of their last five matches against the Roosters.
-The Warriors have won their last two – and three of their last four – matches against the Roosters in NSW.
-Since a heavy loss to the Tigers in Round 2, the Warriors have won five and drawn one of their nine games away from Auckland, while they lost the other three by four points or less.
-The Warriors have conceded 16-plus points in nine straight games.
-The Roosters are on a six-match winning streak at the SCG.
-The Roosters have conceded less than 20 points in each of their last nine games (including 12 of less in four of those).
-The Warriors have never played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
-Five of the last six Warriors-Roosters games have produced 36 points or fewer.
-The clubs’ last eight clashes have featured four margins of four points or less and four margins of 24 points or more.
3 Key Match-ups
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck v James Tedesco: Arguably the world’s two best fullbacks and both in the Dally M Medal conversation, as well as for the unofficial ‘world’s best player’ mantle. RTS has been monumental in a patchy Warriors outfit – an absolute marvel. Tedesco has had an easier ride in a superstar-laden Roosters side, but he has undoubtedly been their best. Roger holds the edge as a workhorse and can bust a game wide open, but ‘Teddy’ is an equally dangerous ball-runner and boast far better ball-playing skills. A titanic match-up.
Chanel Harris-Tavita v Luke Keary: CHT is the toast of Warriors fans in the wake of several eye-catching recent performances in the top grade, but last week was a huge step up – he was the best afield by a mile. Roosters No.6 Keary was the NRL’s hottest player in the early rounds and a NSW certainty, but the 2018 Churchill Medal winner has struggled to make the same impact since returning from a concussion layoff that ruled him out of Origin. Advantage ‘The Future’.
Gerard Beale v Latrell Mitchell: Beale has muddled along during his recent first grade stint with David Fusitu’a and Patrick Herbert sidelined. But he was superb defensively last week, shutting down dangerman Tom Trbojevic on multiple occasions. With Herbert available, on the surface it seems Beale has been retained at centre to do a defensive job of Roosters match-winner Mitchell. Latrell has been dragged into a controversy no one should have to deal with this week – through absolutely no fault of his own – but it will be interesting to see where the dumped Blues centre’s headspace is at on Sunday.
'He keeps turning up' – Warriors hail rookie Chanel Harris-Tavita's hot run of formhttps://t.co/nVkWA2LcC4
— 1 NEWS – Sport (@1NewsSportNZ) August 14, 2019
Last Time They Met: Responding to shock 30-6 home loss to the under-strength Warriors in Round 4 last season, the Roosters turned the tables at Mt Smart with a 32-0 rout six weeks later.
The Roosters have covered just 4 of 12 as a double digit favourite. The Roosters have covered six of seven at the SCG. The Roosters average 36.57 at the SCG . The Roosters cover just 41% of day games. The Warriors have covered nine straight games away from Mt Smart. The Warriors have covered 12 of 15 away from Mt Smart as an underdog. The Warriors have covered 8 of 10 off conceding 16 or more. The under is 12-2 when the Warriors are a road underdog of 8 or more. The under is 27-16 when an underdog of 12.5 or more off a win of 7+.
TAB’s Best Bet: Warriors +13.5 @ $1.90
The Verdict: Usually it doesn’t get much tougher than a road trip to take on the Roosters when your season is on the line and you’re still down on troops. But there’s something about this match-up that seems to suit the Warriors. They have a handy recent record in the rivalry, have been uncharacteristically outstanding on the road in 2019 and are coming off one of the club’s best wins in recent years. Head says Roosters will find a way to get the two points, heart says the Warriors are a massive chance of a boilover – and TWL has a habit of listening to the latter. Warriors by 4