By Stephen Gallagher
MATCH OF THE ROUND: ROUND 21 – Sydney Roosters V Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Saturday, Allianz Stadium. 19.00 local time, 21.00NZT.
LAST WEEK: Sydney clinched the Minor Premiership and fired a warning shot to the other seven teams with a comprehensive victory over their rivals South Sydney 24-12
Manly-Warringah were haplessly thrashed at home after taking a 16-0 lead early on to go down 38-26.
THIS WEEK: Thoroughly entitled to be called Minor Premiers, this Roosters outfit have had a massive turn around under coach Trent Robinson. Of course, with their personnel on board most teams would get this far. Though it takes a good coach and a good environment to make big names and big ego’s turn in to brilliant football players for 80 minutes over 26 rounds. They have a lot to prove, after being the best through the regular season they need to back it up with a win in week one of the finals.
I’d say Geoff Toovey would have a lot to say after blowing such a lead from last week. So this week the Sea Eagles will be fired up, and ready to go after an intense week of training. This side have been pretty consistent all throughout this year, and have only had slight hiccups along the way. There’s going to be plenty of players ready to prove themselves too.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Well they haven’t got this far for nothing. I’d say there’s going to be another element to the Roosters that will give us a fair indication of just how far this team will go throughout the post season. This is a championship side just waiting for this sort out football. Whenever there’s been a tough game, the Roosters have delivered. I think the young guys in this team will be led perfectly by the experienced heads. A thorough 80 minute game plan will prove to be a big factor.
Manly-Warringah will be out to ambush the Roosters. Starting super-fast last weekend, they’ll want to make the most of that again this week by scoring early points to try and upset the Sydney-siders. If they can pile on early points, it’ll be down the right hand edge, with the likes of Lyon and Williams scoring over 30% of their tries in 2013. They have a recipe for success, and Toovey in his second year of coaching will do his best to harness it once again.
THE BATTLE OF: Young stars. Mitchell Pearce at the tender age of 24 has played over 150 NRL games. The scapegoat for many things, I believe Pearce is a true and natural talent. His vision in the game is second-to-none and his partnership with James Maloney this season has been extraordinary. He has the game in his hands.
Daly Cherry-Evans is simply a Manly hero, but also a game winning, premiership winning champion in his three years in first grade. A player who many look towards when the pressure is on. Can deliver when needed.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Aidan Guerra
I think he’s stood up big time in the absence of Boyd Cordner. A player who can deliver with the ball in hand, as well as being defensively sound. I think Guerra is a massive under-rated player in this Roosters forward pack.
Steve Matai – The human shoulder. He has been in his best form since I can remember, and I’d like to think Matai would agree with me. If he didn’t agree with me, I would hate to be tackled by him because of it. He’s really been sound for Manly this year.
Finals footy is what I love! So this will be the best time of year for teams and players to show that they deserve to be there 1 v 3 in this one, and I think the Roosters will just edge the Sea Eagles. It’ll be an eighty minute battle that’s for sure. Roosters 26 Sea Eagles 20.
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