Preview: Sydney Roosters vs Canterbury Bulldogs

The land of the long flat white — as if that’s an insult — comes up against the land of the shithouse banner.

“We haven’t forgotten”.

“Bred, not bought”.

The first one we could easily use as well. After all, we haven’t forgotten the cut-out right in front of you guys in the corresponding game at Allianz last year from the game’s premier second rower, Sonny Bill Williams. We haven’t forgotten his two tries, or Willie Mason’s two tries for that matter.

Maybe it’s time to move on, guys. This shit backfires on you every year, so much so that even Benny Barba set up a try with his first touch in round one. Take one of G.O.B.’s “Forget-Me-Nows” and be done with it already.

The other, in light of recent events, is just silly. It should really read “Bred, not bought. Then bought. Then not.” What money can I get on Fifita scoring two tries against you next year?

Oh well. At least you can use that money you didn’t waste on Fifita to buy someone else’s fullback to replace the current one that you bought off the Roosters.

Bred not bought, my arse.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS

Team for Round 5: Anthony Minichiello, Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Dylan Napa, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Boyd Cordner, Sonny Bill Williams, Frank-Paul Nu’uasala. Interchange: Daniel Mortimer, Aidan Guerra, Mitchell Aubusson, Kane Evans.

Team Analysis

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves took the early plea for his hit on Glenn Stewart last week and is out of this clash. He’s been replaced in the starting line-up by Dylan Napa, who makes his second career start. In his first start in round 26 last year, fans may remember he played the full 80 minutes and tackled Surgii into the sideline, saving a certain try and likely winning the minor premiership in the process.

Meanwhile, Sonny Bill Williams returns to face his former club for the third time and retains his customary right-side second rower spot from Mitch Aubusson, who drops back to the bench. It is a crying shame for Aubo because he’s been our best defensive player this year, making an astonishing 40 tackles for every miss.

Their defence was back to its best last week but taking out their 56-4 win against the Eels and the Roosters have struggled in attack — having two games without a single line break and having to pull out some magic to beat the Broncos in the other game.

How they’ll play

I think you learn more about a team in the close games than you do in the blow-outs, so it’s best to look at the Dogs’ defence in tough games and where the Roosters should attack. So let’s look at their game two weeks ago in that thriller  against the Panthers.

Do you recognise this play from the Panthers?

nrl_5010954_GIFSoup.com

Looks eerily similar to the Roosters’ pet play, no?

roostersddplay_5010961_GIFSoup.com

The difference here is that Adam Docker ain’t no Boyd Cordner. But Mitchell Pearce could be well-served going for the first man here — either Dylan Napa or Frank-Paul Nu’uasala — as it’s the unexpected play.

It really is a phenomenal attacking structure. Just watch it again: had Pearce gone behind Boyd to Maloney, Jack Reed had already committed to Boyd and the BBQ could have gone through. Had Pearce passed to Maloney and had Reed not committed to Cordner, it’s a three-on-two with Maloney, Jenko and Toops up against Reed and Lachlan Maranta

I love this play — my favourite rugby league set play of all time.

And now the Panthers are flogging it. Fuck.

The Roosters could also aim a few high kicks at relative neophyte Corey Thompson. The Bulldogs winger is deceptively strong but weak under the high ball — David Simmons and Dean Whare had a near field day out there two weeks ago as he seemingly suffers from Wolfman Syndrome i.e. refusing to jump to at least contest the bomb. SKD and Mini/RTS could benefit of a few kicks out there.

Source: Fox Sports.

Source: Fox Sports.

In addition, SBW should cause some havoc out there. Before they were pumped last week, the Storm had some success out wide against the Bulldogs with Kevin Proctor, a man of similar size. In a similar vein to what Proctor prodcued last week, SBW will aim his runs between Trent Hodkinson and Josh Morris and his offload won’t be wrapped up: Hodkinson typically tackles low against the taller second-rowers, and a good angled run and support from RTS or Mini out back could bear some fruit.

CANTERBURY BULLDOGS

Team for Round 5: Sam Perrett, Corey Thompson, Josh Morris, Tim Lafai, Chase Stanley, Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, Aidan Tolman, Michael Ennis, James Graham, Frank Pritchard, Tony Williams, Dale Finucane. Interchange: (from) Josh Jackson, Pat O’Hanlon, Tim Browne, David Klemmer, Moses Mbye, Greg Eastwood.

Team Analysis

All banter aside, good on Bulldogs management for not putting up with Fifita’s bullshit remarks — if indeed that is why his contract was pulled. They have probably dodged a bullet there as he has come off as a bit of a prima-donna since, including bizarrely carving his name in the dew out at Shark Park the next morning:

Source: Daily Telegraph.

But back to the Bulldogs team that the Roosters WILL face this week.

The Dogs are 2-2 and have the best attack in the competition by a solitary point — but those scores are a little inflated after a 42-4 win over a decimated-by-injury Cronulla squad and a 40-12 win over a Storm team missing Cam Smith.

It’s their defence that’s been excellent this year though. They’re leaking just 13 points a match, and never more than 18. Regardless, they somehow start this game as heavy underdogs (no pun intended) at $3 with some betting agencies.

Greg Eastwood has been added to the extended bench of an otherwise unchanged Bulldogs squad from last week. Former Rooster Sam Perrett plays his fifth game at fullback for the Dogs; it’s the position he won a Jersey Flegg premiership with the Roosters as part of the famed undefeated squad back in 2004 alongside Jamie Soward et al.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the first match-up between the two giants off the bench: Kane Evans and David Klemmer. Petero Civoniceva predicted big things from both of these behemoths, naming them two of the top five rookie props in the game last year. I’d like to watch them hit each other really hard — we should be able to feel it in the nosebleed section — and also have a limbo-off at some stage.

How they’ll play

Attack the right-side defence. That’s all there is to it. They have Josh Morris out there; line him up against SKD and hope for the best.

Of the Roosters seven tries conceded since the Bunnies game, five have come down that edge. SKD’s technical defence has improved markedly since 2012 and the start of 2013 — but the stats don’t lie. The right side is the weakest link in a Roosters defence that returned to its best last week but still conceded a try out there.

Also, RTS has missed five of his 12 tackle attempts this year, and if he’s playing out right he could be exploited.

Source: Yahoo.

Source: Yahoo.

Trent Hodkinson has also been in superb form, showing a running game last week that many never thought he had. He’s unlikely to have as much success running it against the Roosters’ seemingly-rejuvenated defence, but his attacking kick aimed for Josh Morris needs to be watched.

The Roosters were also opened up easily by DCE in the second half when the Queenslander went for an exploratory run and angled up past Kane Evans. The Bulldogs could get through the Roosters up the centre during that middle 25 minutes when Kane is on the field, as Josh Reynolds is one player capable of a similar probing run — plus he’s much lower to the ground than DCE and could escape the clutches of the big fella much easier.

Prediction

The return of Sonny Bill Williams is exactly what the Roosters need: they can depend on their set plays all they like, but they won a Grand Final with Sonny Bill Williams breaking the line and offloading. He’s the impetus the Roosters need to enliven that right-side attack, and the Roosters have missed him — despite last week being their first loss in the six games he’s been out in the past two seasons.

The Bulldogs were impressive last week but the conditions were weird and the Storm were missing Smith — just ask the Sea Eagles how much he means to their defence (read: 40-0 in 2008).

I think the Roosters need a blow-out here, and they will go for it. Their attack has been up and down, and they are due for an up.

Combine that with a renewed focus on defence — even accounting for them missing JWH — and the Roosters should win comfortably here, assuming the penalties don’t get the best of them. A big assumption, given last week.

Man of the Match will be Mitchell Pearce. He could control the game out wide, especially on the left, and end up shredding them with flat balls. Either Mitch will take the gong, or Sonny Bill against his former team — but that answer seemed too obvious.

Source: Fox Sports.

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