Round 8: Roosters v Wests Tigers preview
Despite a first-round defeat, the Roosters have been impressive this season in winning their following six matches to go atop the NRL ladder. Last weekend, they were too strong for the Dragons winning their traditional ANZAC Day game 20-10. Whilst the Tricolours have won six matches straight, their form has had a couple of gaps in it, with last weekend holding a 14-0 lead before the Dragons got it back to reduce the margin to four points. The victory wasn't assured until the dying minutes, much like the previous week, where the Roosters surrendered a 20-0 lead against the Storm before taking the victory 21-20 in Golden Point. The comebacks are something that will no doubt be concerning coach Trent Robinson, particularly with the squad expecting to take a hit from Origin selection in the coming months.
So while the defending premiers have been impressive this season, they have had their moments of shakiness - surrendering those big leads or suffering second half lapses. In the last fortnight in particular this has been a concern, one 'Robbo' will be hoping to allay with a key addition this week with Luke Keary returning from injury. Frustratingly, on the flip side they suffer a key loss as well, with veteran hooker Jake Friend out for a considerable period with a torn bicep.
The Wests Tigers had a strained off-season with salary cap issues and then being a part of the NRL's coaching merry-go-round, with Ivan Cleary departing and Michael Maguire jumping on the bus. Their season has been one of mixed fortunes, with four wins from their seven games this season. Coming off the back of a mixed performance in Tamworth where they trailed 14-0 against the Gold Coast Titans before scoring 30 unanswered points to take a 30-14 victory. They bounced back to win last week's game on a short turn-around - having being thrashed 51-6 the week before against Parramatta.
This season so far, the concern has been around the nature of their defeats, with all three of their losses coming alongside performances that were very ordinary to say the least. The first of the season came against Canterbury at Campbelltown, which was backed up by a heart-breaking Golden Point defeat against the Penrith Panthers. The Tigers' effort can go missing at times but this week they will be boosted by the return of Benji Marshall, who comes in for Josh Reynolds after 'Grub' suffered an injury last weekend.
Last meeting: Round 13 2018 - Roosters 16 Wests Tigers 14
Who to watch: Roosters' half Luke Keary missed last week's ANZAC Day match and returns to the squad following his omission through concussion last week. He's had to play a controlling role in the Roosters line-up with Cooper Cronk suffering a niggling injury throughout the early part of the season. Keary's had the most try-assists of any player this season with nine in total, but also the Roosters' half has had nine handling errors this season - the third most of any player.
Frustratingly, Wests Tigers fullback and captain Moses Mbye hasn't had the impact that would've been expected from a player that has been tipped to be around Origin contention for several seasons. The former Bulldog has been quiet in attack notching up just 1 try assist this season with 26 tackle breaks. The other concern is that Mbye hasn't made the running metres of other rival fullbacks this season.
My tip: The Roosters' form has been far superior despite the lapses in concentration. The visitors will need a much better start than last week because if they turn in the same sort of performance they did against the Titans in the first forty, the game will be over within 15 minutes. Regardless, the Tricolours should win this game comfortably. Roosters by 18.