The Roosters will square off against the Raiders in the first of the two NRL semi finals on Friday night! As usual, Scooby has you covered with a full preview and best bets for the massive clash below. The action kicks off at 7.50pm from the SCG.
SCG, Friday 7.50pm (AEDT)
All eyes were on the Roosters to see how they would bounce back from their 60-8 drubbing against the Rabbitohs in Round 20; the task of coming up against the competition leading Panthers in Week 1 of the Finals was going to be a difficult one. They started well with a try inside 5 minutes and jumped to a 10-nil leader after 8 minutes. Unfortunately, the Panthers then went on a 28-nil run for the next 35 minutes; aside from conceding points, the dip in defensive structure was evident compared to previous years. They fought their way back into the contest, narrowly defeated 29-28 in the end but the damage was done by the 50th minute. They had some positives that they will take into this week’s fixture; they had slightly more possession in that match (51%) and completed at 80%, made slightly more metres and post contact metres, had more tackle breaks and line breaks and missed fewer tackles. This suggests that perhaps they were just beaten by a better team on the night.
The Raiders, in sudden death, produced a strong second half display to overcome the Sharks 32-20. Many didn’t expect the 8th placed team to put up such a fight and a 10-6 lead just prior to HT had many believing that an upset could be possible. Soon enough, Jack Wighton took complete control of his team’s performance, scoring two tries in 3 minutes to completely turn the match around. Despite winning, they will want to improve on numerous areas of this match. They completed at just 68%, made fewer metres (almost 200m) and post contact metres and made 14 total errors. The Raiders will be pleased with the fact that they won the match despite being poor in those areas but the task becomes more difficult now against a team who rarely loses 3-consecutive games.
This could be a high scoring contest with both sides inside the Top 6 when it comes to scoring points; the Roosters sit first with an average of 27.6ppg, ahead of the Raiders in 6th with 22.7ppg. It is no surprise that this coincides with run metres; the Roosters average 1,775m per game (3rd) and 615.8pcm (5th) compared to the Raiders 1,663m per game (9th) and 549.9pcm (10th). The Roosters also have the edge when it comes to try assists, averaging 3.9 (1st), ahead of the Raiders 2.9 (7th). As for the overall record, these two sides have met 39 times since 1998, with the Roosters winning 26 times. The Roosters have an incredible 75% winning record at this ground but the Raiders are 100% successful after defeating the Roosters 24-20 back in Round 10 this year. The Roosters won 6 of the past 10 meetings between these two sides dating back to Round 12, 2014. Home ground advantage has been a massive factor, with the visitors winning just 3 times in that 10-game period. The average margin of victory in that same period sits at 8.3 points, with blowout victories (2014 – 28 points and 2015 – 14 points) lifting the average.
The Roosters are listed as strong favourites for this match and are boosted further by the return of key players, most notably hooker Jake Friend (who was also absent in their Round 17 fixture). The Raiders carry the same team from last week into this game and will aim to not only knock the Roosters out of the Finals but deliver a rare 3-game losing streak to the reigning Premiers. As stated above, the performance of the Roosters wasn’t as bad as it may have appeared (being down 28-10). Then again, momentum is an interesting thing in rugby league and the Raiders would arguably have a greater abundance of it. In a condensed season, it is great to have 2 previous matches to look back on as indicators for how this game may play out.
In Round 10, the Raiders were too strong for the Roosters, dominating possession, having a far superior completion rate and making half the amount of errors. In Round 17, the Roosters edged out the Raiders and in that game, they had a slight edge on possession, had a superior completion rate and made fewer errors (amazingly 15 v 8 – so almost half again). The key for this game undoubtedly lies within those areas and the Roosters appear most capable of controlling this. That isn’t to discredit the Raiders, but the loss of Hodgson in the middle has limited their effectiveness in doing what is required here. On their day though, they are capable of defeating the Roosters and will relish the fact that they are ‘underdogs’ in this contest. This game is a lot closer than the odds are suggesting (Raiders @ $2.75 is ridiculous) and the line is enticing (+5.5 @ $1.95). Taking the line does allow for an upset win to the Raiders, while also compensating for a close Roosters victory. If you believe that the Roosters will win, then it is recommended that you invest on them 1-12 ($2.90) as a 13+ margin of victory appears unlikely.
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