Does having a week off take the momentum out of a team in the finals or give them more energy to attack the last stretch of the season?
Since 2012, six sides out of a possible 10 progressed to the Grand Final, and the Roosters went all the way in 2013 having had the week off. The Cowboys had to do it the hard way in their Premiership winning year, playing twice before the preliminary final.
The Roosters have not been at their best despite their second placed finish. The week off will revitalize any sore wounds and give them plenty of time to prepare for the biggest clash of the year to date.
On the other hand, the Cowboys seem to be a side who run off momentum and have relished playing week in, week out with a roster demolished by injuries.
The Roosters have urged fans to support the team on Saturday night, with dismal finals crowds marring what has been a fine season.
2017 – Rd 21 – Sydney Roosters 22 Def. North Queensland Cowboys 16 at Allianz Stadium
2016 – Rd 23 – Sydney Roosters 22 Def. North Queensland Cowboys 10 at Allianz Stadium
2016 – Rd 3 – North Queensland Cowboys 40 Def. Sydney Roosters 0 at 1300SMILES Stadium
2015 – Rd 3 – Sydney Roosters 28 Def. North Queensland Cowboys 4 at 1300SMILES Stadium
2014 – Semi-Final – Sydney Roosters 31 Def. North Queensland Cowboys 30 at Allianz Stadium
The Sydney Roosters have the edge over the North Queensland Cowboys, winning four of the last five matchups as part of a 25-10 head-to-head record. However, two of the five recent clashes will give the Cowboys plenty of confidence.
They ran the Roosters close in round 21 of this year despite having, like ever, a number of their key players missing through injury. In 2014, the Cowboys came from 30-0 behind to eventually lose by just a point, another example of the fighting spirit that they have taken plaudits for during 2017.
|SYDNEY ROOSTERS||NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS|
|Michael Gordon||1||1||Lachlan Coote|
|Daniel Tupou||2||2||Kyle Feldt|
|Latrell Mitchell||3||3||Justin O’Neill|
|Mitchell Aubusson||4||4||Kane Linnett|
|Blake Ferguson||5||5||Antonio Winterstein|
|Luke Keary||6||6||Te Maire Martin|
|Mitchell Pearce||7||7||Michael Morgan|
|Jared Waerea-Hargreaves||8||8||John Asiata|
|Jake Friend||9||9||Jake Granville|
|Dylan Napa||10||10||Scott Bolton|
|Boyd Cordner||11||11||Gavin Cooper|
|Aidan Guerra||12||12||Ethan Lowe|
|Isaac Liu||13||13||Jason Taumalolo|
|Ryan Matterson||14||14||Ben Hampton|
|Sio Siua Taukeiaho||15||15||Coen Hess|
|Zane Tetevano||16||16||Corey Jensen|
|Connor Watson||17||17||Shaun Fensom|
|Kane Evans||18||18||Ray Thompson|
|Victor Radley||19||19||Javid Bowen|
|Joseph Manu||20||20||Braden Uele|
|Mitchell Cornish||22||21||Matthew Scott|
Luke Keary has been named and looks set to take the field despite being sent home on Monday and Tuesday due to illness. Without the diminutive half, the Roosters would struggle with a new scrum base on such short notice, so his inclusion is pivotal, even if he isn’t 100% fit.
The other big news from the team lists is the shock inclusion of Matt Scott, the Cowboys co-captain who has spent most of 2017 on the sidelines. The battle-hardened forward has had more than his fair share of injuries over recent years and the six months off will have done wonders for himself. What a massive inclusion arguably the best front row forward in the game would be!
The Facts Of The Matter
Despite being perennial fast starters with the second most tries (30) within the first 20 minutes of matches this season, they got off to a slow start against the Cowboys in their last meeting. However, their second half was herculean, reeling in a 16-6 deficit. Perhaps the most damning stat coming into this clash is the fact the Roosters have won 12 games by six points or less this season. If this one goes down to the wire then the Roosters have plenty of experience in those tense moments, with Mitchell Pearce hitting three field goals in 2017.
Trent Robinson has guided the side from 15th place last season all the way to second, only denied of yet another Minor Premiership by the unrelenting Storm. The man has set a new lease of life for struggling careers and reinvigorated the likes of Keary, Michael Gordon, and Latrell Mitchell all of whom are now in close to career-best form. Keary has been the top five-eighth this year. His ability to break the line has been on show nearly every game this year, consistency personified.
They have probably not strung together a solid 80-minute performance all year and their last match wasn’t all that great either. However, if they can bottle their start and maintain it for the duration of the game then it would take more than a brave Cowboys side to beat them. Their forwards are big, mobile and extremely fit with the majority posting big numbers every week. Add in their robust backs and it starts to become clear why they are in the final four and favourites for a Grand Final spot. A metre-eating team that can score from anywhere on the park, the Cowboys will have to be defensively on high alert all night.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys are privileged enough to have, arguably, the two form players in the competition although Melbourne fans would have a fair shout to argue otherwise. The positive thing about this two-pronged attack is that if Michael Morgan cannot use his magic to find a way through for the Cowboys, man mountain Jason Taumalolo inevitably will. However, such is the calmness of Morgan and Taumalolo in big moments, neither often fail to come up with the right play. Their stats this year are freaky and the two have delivered the goods when many doubted the side. Whilst the Cowboys need another big team effort on Saturday, if the players around them can do their jobs look for these two to take them the rest of the way.
Morgan’s kicking game since Johnathan Thurston got injured has been incredible. He and Lachlan Coote constantly find the grass more often than an opposition player and, with the Cowboys pack chasing like wolves in numbers, it has been a large part of their success this finals series. They must continue from their previous matches and camp the Roosters down in their own end to win field possession and earn chances to pick up points.
The Cowboys need to start fast. They have came from behind twice in this finals series but the Roosters may not give them another chance. Should the Cowboys get on top early and build a good lead, it may be all over before the Roosters get a chance to impose themselves.
The Roosters have so much big game experience and despite a massive error rate, snuck home against the Broncos. Pearce’s maturity has shone through this season and if this one goes down to the last 10 minutes, it will be an intriguing battle with both number sevens embracing the big moments.
This is possibly the most difficult game of the finals series to call. The Roosters’ big game experience will not be enough in a thriller. Cowboys by 2 points.
Who will come out on top in this sudden death final, the Roosters or the Cowboys? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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