Everything has been stacked against the Cowboys for the majority of 2017 and they wouldn’t rather it any other way. Heavy underdogs against their bogey side at a stadium where their record is dismal. Write them off at your own peril.
They come up against a Roosters side who narrowly edged the Broncos in week one of the finals and remain well rested as they return to full strength with the return of Zane Tetevano to the bench.
The Roosters have turned Allianz into a fortress, having not been beaten there since March while the Cowboys haven’t knocked off the Roosters at their home ground since the stadium was known as the Sydney Football Stadium in 2010. Despite all of this, North Queensland won at the stadium just two weeks ago and as they embark on their third trip south of the Queensland border in as many weeks, none of these stats will be diminishing the confidence of them or their fans.
Matt Scott’s peculiar selection in a 21-man squad raised eyebrows yesterday and while coach Paul Green said the return of his co-captain was highly unlikely, he believed he owed it to Scott given the work has he put in since undergoing surgery on his ACL.
Scott or not, the Cowboys are in form and believe in what they’re doing. Michael Morgan has revelled in Johnathan Thurston’s absence, owning the side in attack while Jason Taumalolo has been a beast right throughout 2017. Justin O’Neill’s return last week against Parramatta also gave the side an added boost as he brings a wealth of experience to the side.
The Sharks had been vulnerable all season and while the Eels were in red hot form, they form had been susceptible to lapses in concentration and that’s something the Roosters will not have this weekend.
The Roosters start and finish games better than most sides in the competition, having scored a staggering 30 tries in the opening 20 minutes this season while crossing 24 times in the final 20 minutes. It’s in the middle 40 minutes of the game – 20 minutes either side of half time – where the Cowboys can really push the home side with a complete 80-minute performance.
It also happens their poorest defensive sector of the game as well, something which the Cowboys will no doubt look to exploit. In saying that, the Roosters are the kings of the close finish.
In 2017, 12 of their wins have come under a six-point margin and you don’t have to look any further than their last game to see how they run games out.
Latrell Mitchell’s statement try following his emphatic fend on Broncos speedster James Roberts that sent the Roosters to this stage of the finals has not only given him but the entire side a boost in confidence ahead of the grand final qualifier.
The Cowboys must bring it defensively from the outset if they’re to spring a third upset in a row. Their attack is capable however if it isn’t at the peak of their powers – something that will be hard to achieve against the stifling defence that Sydney possess – the curtain could draw closed reasonably early in this contest.
The Roosters are hosting a preliminary final for a reason and we expect them to advance to the big dance next weekend.
Roosters by 8.
|Te Maire Martin||6|