Full Time
5:30pm Sat March 21, 2020
Round 2 - Leichhardt Oval, Lilyfield

Round 2: Roosters v Sea Eagles preview

Competition heavyweights both look to avoid 0-2 start

The Sydney Roosters and Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles will both be able to draw some positives out of what were ultimately disappointing performances from both sides to start the season, going down to the Panthers and Storm respectively.

The Roosters welcome back star second-rower Angus Chrichton as a direct replacement for young-gun Sitili Tupouniua, who was unable to finish last Saturday's match with a medial ligament problem and does not currently have a date set for his return. Winger Matt Ikuvalu has also passed HIA protocol to be named in the starting side for the first time since Round 15 last year. Des Hasler has made full use of the copy-paste feature by naming an unchanged 17 from the side that went down 18-4 to Melbourne, with Lachlan Croker doing enough to ward off competition from other possible bench-utilities such as Cade Cust.

It will be extremely foreign territory for both sides on Saturday, with the match not only being held at Leichhardt Oval, which is unfamiliar for both outfits, but they will have an empty hill and grandstands "watching" them play, with perhaps the exception being the owners of the property which rooftop overlooks the iconic suburban ground.

Both teams also had similar second half burnouts in their fixtures last week. Trent Robinson's men were fast starters, racing out to a 12-point lead inside the first 20 minutes against Penrith. The rest of the match however is one the tricolours would like to forget. They produced an extremely un-roosters like performance in the second half, with coach Robinson taking aim in particular at the poor 5th tackle options, one of which resulted in a Panthers try mere tackles after a poor kick from Keary gifted the Panthers a 7-tackle set. Expect Manly to really ramp up the pressure on their halves, especially young Kyle Flanagan who is still relatively new to first grade. A team like the Roosters will be doing everything possible during the week to ensure the same doesn't happen again come Saturday, so expect them to bounce back in a big way.

The Sea Eagles were defensively superb for 60 minutes against a Melbourne side who were just as up to the task. What would be a major point of concern for Des Hasler is the fact that his side failed to score a try in their first bout as well as only completing 67% of their sets. Manly will have to improve their ball handling in a big way if they want to stand any chance at breaching a rock-solid Roosters defence. They possess arguably the best halfback in the game in Cherry-Evans as well as a top string fullback in Tom Trbojevic, and if they can play like they did during the first 60 minutes last week with some added attacking flair there's no reason an upset can't be on the cards.

Last meeting: Round 2 2019 - Sea Eagles 18 Roosters 26

It was a dour old night in March last year when these two sides met. Manly were still at the stage when many - including the Northern Beaches faithful - expected them to be also-rans in the competition. The Roosters at one point led 26-0, before we saw what would be the first of a genuinely competitive Manly side come to play and, in the process, claw back some pride, making it a much narrower margin than many predicted.

Who to watch: Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic was kept relatively quiet by his standards last week, and unfortunately for his side it played a big part in their inability to get over the line. It was his first proper NRL match in quite a while, having sat out the backend of last season with a pectoral injury. It would be unrealistic to expect him to return to his brilliant best straight away, but with a game under his belt expect to see a much more familiar version of "Tommy Turbo" in the near future, possibly as soon as this weekend.

It's a similar story for the other superstar Number 1, with James Tedesco being uncharacteristically rattled by the Panthers in Round 1. He still made over 200 metres, which over the years has become the standard to expect from Teddy, but his play-the-balls were much slower than usual and as a result the Roosters struggled for momentum, particularly in the second half. He'll also want a big game defensively after being embarrassed by Villame Kikau close to the line, however there aren't many who would've done a better job in that situation.

The favourite: In what will likely be quite a close game, the Roosters shape as the clear favourites with betting agencies to avoid going 0 from 2 to start the year.

My tip: Manly won't go another 80 minutes without scoring a try, however they will be lucky to get more than 2-3 four-pointers on the board against a Roosters side with attacking flare all over the park who are keen to improve after a poor defensive showing. Roosters by 6.

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