ROUND THREE PREVIEW: Sydney Roosters Versus Brisbane Broncos

The Sydney Roosters so far seem to only be able to convert points in the beginning or the end of a half, all their points coming in the first five minutes of a half or the last five.

The Brisbane Broncos tend to score the majority of their points in one half.

So if we were to believe the stats, the Roosters will get out to an early six point lead, the Broncos will then score the next 16 or 20 to lead into the half and the Roosters will score early in the second half to make it interesting before possibly scoring in the final minutes to win in dramatic fashion.

But like Matt Elliott once said before he forgot how to coach, statistics are like mini-skirts: they show a lot but hide the best bits.

Brisbane Broncos

Team for Round Three:

Corey Norman, Josh Hoffman, Jack Reed, Justin Hodges, Lachlan Maranta, Scott Prince, Peter Wallace, Ben Hannant, Andrew McCullough, Sam Thaiday (c), Alex Glenn, Matt Gillett, Corey Parker. Interchange: (From) Ben Hunt, Mitchell Dodds, David Stagg, Scott Anderson, Dunamis Lui, Nick Slyney.

Team Analysis:

Hodges is struggling to be fit for this one. Image credit The Daily Telegraph.

Hodges is struggling to be fit for this one. Image credit The Daily Telegraph.

Former Roosters premiership winner Justin Hodges has been named despite struggling with a hamstring strain. It is expected he’ll be given until the last minute on Saturday to prove his fitness.

If ruled out, Matt Gillett will take his place in the centres, essentially shifting just one spot wider and marking Michael Jennings instead of Sonny Bill Williams.

Poor Gillett must feel like he’s in some fucked up version of the movie Saw. This is the equivalent of being given the choice of putting your hand blindly into one of two bags to pick a mystery prize, only if the prizes were either a used syringe or a piece of shit. He must have screwed someone’s missus in an old life because shit like this only happens to people with bad karma coming their way.

Origin hopeful Josh McGuire has been ruled out for 4-6 weeks with a calf injury, which means another former Rooster, Ben Hannant, will play significantly more minutes. Hannant was great last week against the Dragons, scoring a try and showing that leg drive through the tackles that made him the name he is.

Meet Scott Prince: Turnstyle. Image credit The Daily Telegraph.

Meet Scott Prince: Turnstyle. Image credit The Daily Telegraph.

Scott Prince is working his way into the five-eighth role since signing with the team in the off-season, and while his kicking game has been OK, he’s been a defensive liability — and that’s being kind. There were rumours they’d play him at fullback in defence to protect him from making tackles in the line, as he has increasingly become a target as his career winds down.

There’s also been calls for the Broncos to sign Josh Dugan, by Wendell Sailor among others. While this won’t have any effect on this game, it shows they are prepared to keep New Zealand rep Josh Hoffman on the wing and let Corey Norman go to Parramatta as is hotly-rumoured.

And honestly, any time you have the chance to sign a wayward star with alcohol problems to play in your city where there’s fuck-all else to do but drink, at the recommendation of a player once suspended for snorting coke, that’s a no-brainer in my books.

With McGuire out, their forwards can only tire more than they have in the first two games of the season, as the big guy with the head strapping could fill in anywhere in the forward pack.

How they’ll play:

Corey Norman: a threat from the back. Image credit SMH.

Corey Norman: a threat from the back. Image credit SMH.

Their strength is in the forward pack and with two more players: Hodges and Norman, who was sensational last week after a poor end to 2012.

Their attack is predictable, but that doesn’t make it easy to stop. If Hodges indeed makes the final squad, they’re going to attack down the right hand edge almost exclusively near the line. It’s unstoppable when on, as Hodges is simply to big and too tall out wide with a great one-hand offload. He has the size advantage over Michael Jennings, but Sonny Bill will defend one player in, while Daniel Tupou is there to diffuse any bombs with his size advantage.

Hodges’ best attribute is the ability to draw the opposing winger in and offload to his winger, in this case the inexperienced Lachlan Maranta. Tupou needs to trust Jennings and SBW inside him and stay out on the wing.

Otherwise, they’ll use Corey Norman in a second five-eighth role on the right and the Roosters in the middle need to be on their game to negate the creative former half’s stepping at the line.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS

Team for Round Three: 

Anthony Minichiello,Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Boyd Cordner, Sonny Bill Williams, Frank-Paul Nu’uausala. Interchange: (From) Daniel Mortimer, Martin Kennedy, Mitchell Aubusson, Luke O’Donnell,  Dylan Napa.

Team Analysis:

Aidan Guerra has again been ruled out, so the team that started last week is how it will start against the Broncos. Boyd Cordner will play the right side and Sonny Bill will play on the left, with Dylan Napa set to drop off the bench after being named purely as insurance for Cordner, whose shoulder is still not 100 per cent as evidenced against the Warriors when he fell on it in a tackle and screamed out in agony.

Daniel Mortimer has been great in very limited minutes. Image credit ABC.

Daniel Mortimer has been great in very limited minutes. Image credit ABC.

You’d want to think that Daniel Mortimer has earned more game time at hooker, at the expense of Jake Friend. He drew a clever penalty from lazy marker defence, which I can’t remember Jake Friend doing in… God knows how long. He’s earned an extra 10 minutes at least on top of the 25 he played against the Warriors — if only to make Friendy more rested towards the end of the game.

Mitch Aubusson played 52 minutes off the bench, and Luke O’Donnell played 4o. The bench is coming along even without Guerra.

But Martin Kennedy has maybe one or two games left to impress, with Lama Tasi being named on the bench for the Newtown Jets. He had 10 runs last week for 85 metres and not much else. He needs to get that 10 metres every hitup, especially as Luke O’Donnell has shown he can do it and especially with the more nimble, more skilled Tasi returning from injury.

How they’ll play:

They have to attack down that left side, not only because it’s been lethal but because they’re either attacking Hodges’ tissue paper hamstrings or second-rower Gillett playing out of position. They also have the height advantage on the wing with Tupou up against the diminutive Maranta.

Sam Moa has been a surprise this year. Image credit Zimbio.

Sam Moa has been a surprise this year. Image credit Zimbio.

Both Sam Moa and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves have been faultless up the middle and they’ll continue to smash it up the middle to tire Hannant and Sam Thaiday, with O’Donnell and a (hopefully) keen to impress Kennedy continuing the barrage. This will set a platform for Mitchell Pearce who has continually found open space with clearing kicks through the first two rounds.

Shaun Kenny-Dowall returned to a semblance of form last week and will need to continue that this week against Jack Reed. On the line I still prefer going right to the likes of SKD who, because his wingspan and evasive skills in limited space, is able to score tries close to the line that others cannot. He also has a good record against the Broncos, scoring four tries against them in one game in 2010.

Otherwise they’ll chip to the other wing on the line, or spread the ball from 40 metres out and beyond to take advantage of that speed out left.They’ll also continually attack the defensively-bereft Scott Prince at the line with any one of the huge forwards they have at their disposal.

Prediction

This is a tough one. The Broncos were impressive in the first half against the Sea Eagles and held on with just 15 men against an admittedly-limp Dragons last week. they have weapons across the park and their forward pack lifts for the big games.

But I still predict a Roosters win.

They showed glimpses last week of what they’re capable of, and Sonny Bill should get more ball early on compared to last week.

Aubusson's back to his linebreaking best this year. Image credit Northern Star.

Aubusson’s back to his line-breaking best this year. Image credit Northern Star.

Aubusson off the bench has provided excellent attack and Mortimer gives the Roosters a real spark out of dummy half when he does come on.

If Hodges is at full strength I’d be inclined to perhaps tip the Broncos — purely on the basis that he’s mad dangerous and the Roosters are still figurting it all out. They should really have put the Warriors to the sword last week after leading 16-0, but shitty discipline both in defence and with the ball was (almost) their undoing.

However, Hodges is most likely going to be less than 100 per cent, and with McGuire also out I’m tipping the Roosters 1-12 at home.

I reckon Man Of The Match will be MP7. He’s overdue. The Roosters need a superb kicking game from their halfback, and his defence will need to be as tough as always with those big boppers from Brisbane sure to run at him when the Roosters are defending their own line.

UPDATED: Twitter fiend and Facebook follower Ryan Fernace (@DimorphicAU) correctly pointed out that in the original version of this article I mixed up the Broncos-Dragons game last week with the Dogs-Eels. I’m an idiot. The article has been updated, and thanks for the heads up mate. Apparently the Dragons are so forgettable this season I didn’t really bother to research. 

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