This Friday will see the Roosters take their home game to Adelaide for the second time in as many years to take on the Storm, who were their opponents in last season’s corresponding fixture at the same venue. This match is sure to have an abundance of fireworks about it, given that Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk will be lining up for the first time against the Storm, the club he spent his entire career at, prior to making the switch to Bondi. Without a doubt, this match is the match of the round.
After a rather jittery start to the season, the Rooster find themselves sitting just outside the top four on points differential, in sixth place. Ever since their Anzac Day loss to the Dragons, the Roosters have won six of their next seven matches against the Sea Eagles, Warriors, Titans, Tigers, Knights and Panthers. Their only loss in that period came against the Broncos in Brisbane, in which they could have easily won. Nonetheless, the Chooks are in red-hot form, and must not be taken lightly, given the immense quality of players within their ranks. Moreover, their most recent victory against the Panthers exemplified how dangerous an outfit the tricolours are.
Sitting just above the Roosters in fifth place on points differential is their opponents for this match, the Storm. Similar to their opponents, the Storm didn’t have the best of starts to the season and even found themselves outside the top eight at one stage. Undoubtedly, that was a sign that they were truly missing the expertise of Cronk. However, like all good teams, the Storm have been able to claw their way back, to be knocking on the door of the top four. In fact, since their loss to the Tigers for the second time this season, the Storm has only dropped two matches, which were against the Dragons and Sea Eagles. However, those losses were rather heavy losses. Nevertheless, their victories in that period against the Knights (twice), Broncos (twice), Warriors, Titans, and Cowboys showed that the premiers are only to be written off at one’s own peril.
Both teams will be eager to finish in the top four, in order to give themselves a better chance of winning the big prize. In the Storm’s case, they will be very eager to defend their crown. And should the Warriors drop their earlier match against the Sharks, one of these teams will find themselves in the all-important top four, especially given that they both hold a superior points differential to the boys from across the Tasman. Moreover, given Cronk’s high profile move to a major rival, we can almost assume that his former Storm teammates will want to ruffle his feathers as much as possible. Similarly, Cronk will be eager to get one up on his former employers and remind them exactly what they are missing.
2017 - Round 23 - Melbourne Storm 16 def. Sydney Roosters 13 at AAMI Park.
2017 - Round 16 - Sydney Roosters 25 def. Melbourne Storm 24 at Adelaide Oval.
2016 - Round 20 - Melbourne Storm 26 def. Sydney Roosters 10 at AAMI Park.
2016 - Round 14 - Melbourne Storm 46 def. Sydney Roosters 0 at Allianz Stadium.
2015 - Qualifying Final - Melbourne Storm 20 def. Sydney Roosters 18 at Allianz Stadium.
The Storm have dominated the Roosters in their five most recent encounters, winning four of these matches. Most of these matches have been rather close, with the 46 point thrashing by the Storm in 2016 being the exception. The lone victory by the Roosters occurred last season when they were against a Storm outfit missing Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, yet needed golden point to take the points via a Mitchell Pierce field goal.
That match was the most recent match played between the two sides in Adelaide, where this match will take place. As for the overall encounters, the Storm has won 19 of these matches, whereas the Roosters have won the other 15. With both sides being considered among the heavyweights of the NRL, a rivalry has developed between the two teams. One would think that it will have only increased, due to the arrival of Cronk to the Roosters from the Storm.
|Sydney Roosters||Melbourne Storm|
|1||James Tedesco||Billy Slater|
|2||Daniel Tupou||Suliasi Vunivalu|
|3||Latrell Mitchell||Will Chambers|
|4||Mitchell Aubusson||Curtis Scott|
|5||Blake Ferguson||Josh Addo-Carr|
|6||Luke Keary||Cameron Munster|
|7||Cooper Cronk||Ryley Jacks|
|8||Sio Siua Taukeiaho||Tim Glasby|
|9||Jake Friend||Cameron Smith|
|10||Dylan Napa||Nelson Asofa-Solomona|
|11||Victor Radley||Felise Kaufusi|
|12||Nat Butcher||Ryan Hoffman|
|13||Isaac Liu||Kenny Bromwich|
|14||Lindsay Collins||Brandon Smith|
|15||Zane Tetevano||Christian Welch|
|16||Kurt Baptiste||Joe Stimson|
|17||Matthew Ikuvalu||Jahrome Hughes|
|18||Sitili Tupouniua||Young Tonumaipea|
|19||Paul Momirovski||Tui Kamikamica|
|20||Mitchell Cornish||Patrick Kaufusi|
|21||Billy Smith||Cheyse Blair|
|23/22||Frank-Paul Nuuausala||Brodie Croft|
|25/23||Jared Waerea-Hargreaves||Justin Olam|
The facts that matter
What else can be said about the Roosters from their last match against the Panthers, except that they were simply phenomenal. They not only brought the Panthers’ winning streak to a grinding halt, but they brought the Mountain men back to Earth with an enormous thud, while making a mockery of the Panthers’ high standing on the ladder. Moreover, they would continue on their own hot streak, while also proving themselves as a genuine premiership threat. Their victory came on the back of absolutely dominating possession, amassing 1939 metres (while restricting the Panthers to a paltry 1160), forcing 14 errors and 9 penalties from their opponents, and only missing 27 tackles (compared to a whopping 60 for the Panthers).
With their recent hot streak, the Roosters’ attack has improved out of sight. They have surged to be ranked fifth in overall points scored, having piled on 314 points thus far. Similarly, they are also ranked fifth in terms of tries scored for the season, with 50 tries to their name. Moreover, the Chooks have made 22,976 metres for the season, behind only the Rabbitohs, while making more post contact metres than anyone, with 7,536. In addition, the tricolours have made 7 charge downs thus far, which is more than any other team has managed. On the other hand, the Roosters still need to manage their ball handling, as they have made more errors and handling errors than anyone this season. They also have made more ineffective tackles than any of their opponents.
Is is also their home record that has benefited from their recent red hot form, as they have won six of their eight home fixtures this season. The Roosters have actually taken one of their home matches this season away from Allianz Stadium. That fixture was against the Titans in round 12, when they played at Central Coast Stadium. This time, they travel interstate to Adelaide. They won their corresponding fixture against the Storm last year, and will be confident of repeating the dose this time around, especially with Cronk in their ranks. However, to do that, they will be lacking the leadership of Boyd Cordner, who was a casualty in last week’s State of Origin match.
Prior to last week’s representative round, the Storm accounted for a competitive Knights outfit in Newcastle. In doing so, they not only continued their good record against the Novocastrians, but they also did the double on them, while remaining hot on the heels of the third-placed Panthers and fourth-placed Warriors. The match itself was much closer than the 28-10 scoreline suggested, however a few Knights errors proved costly in the end. Both the Panthers and Warriors are one win ahead of the Storm and Roosters, but they have comparatively inferior points differentials. This means that if the Storm win this match, and either of them lose their respective fixtures, the Storm will benefit greatly, as they will leapfrog one of them into the top four.
Similar to their opponents, the Storm’s good run of form has seen them put their foot down on the accelerator. As such, their attack has improved to the extent that they are currently ranked fourth in overall points scored, with 325. They are just above their opponents, while only the Rabbitohs, Dragons and Raiders are ranked higher than them. Moreover, they have scored the same amount of tries to their opponents, with 50 for the season. In addition, they have made the third most intercepts for the season with 5, in which only the Sharks and a Dragons have made more. And if goal kicking is a deciding factor, the premiers have an advantage here, as they have a conversion rate of 86%, behind only the Panthers. On the flip side, the Storm’s ball handling remains an issue, as they have made 160 errors, behind only their opponents and the Cowboys. In addition, their handling error total is 71 for the season, behind only their opponents with 72.
This season, the Storm’s away record reads four wins and three losses. This is actually quite a solid away record, when one considers how difficult it is to win away from home. This match may be an away fixture for them, but they will feel more at home than their opponents, given that Adelaide is geographically closer to Melbourne than Sydney. As such, there are likely to be more Storm supporters present at the match than those of their opponents. However, they will have their work cut out for them, as many of their representative players remain in doubt for this match. On the other hand, the majority of the Storm players are well aware of Cronk’s game, and will be very confident of nullifying his influence. No player in the team knows Cronk’s moves better than Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.
This match is easily the match of the round, featuring a star studded lineup against the defending premiers. As well as the fact that Cronk will be lining up against his former Storm teammates, this match can have a major influence as to who finishes the regular season in the top four. Therefore, there is minimal doubt that both teams will be eager to aim up against each other and leave no stone unturned.
Regarding Cooper Cronk, despite being a long-serving player for the Storm and rightfully earning legendary status for his services for them, there are many supporters who are unhappy that his choice of destination was the Roosters, a direct rival for the premiership. As this is likely rub off on the players, it is almost safe to assume that Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and co will be putting aside their friendships with Cronk and ripping into him at any given opportunity, in order to nullify his influence on the game. Similarly, Cronk’s new teammates will be eager to prevent his former teammates from roughing him up, while Cronk himself will be incredibly keen to assert his influence on the game and torment his former teammates, in order to remind them of what they’re missing out on. This is minimal doubt that Cronk’s transfer between the clubs has heightened the rivalry.
With several players from either side returning from representative duties, there may be some very sore bodies coming into this match. There are even some players in doubt, while there have been disrupted preparations due to some flight delays for some of the New Zealand stars coming back from the one-off test with England in the USA. This is actually affecting the Storm more than it is for the Roosters, despite skipper Boyd Cordner missing the game through injury. On that note, despite the absence of Cordner, As well as the Storm knowing Cronk’s game inside out, I feel the disruptions will eventually get to the Storm, and that Cronk will ensure his teammates exploit that and get the two points, in what should be a nail-biter. Roosters by 2.