Schick Hydro Preview: Sydney Roosters v Canterbury Bulldogs
It's been nearly 13 years since Andrew Ryan's underrated cover tackle sealed a thrilling 16-13 win for the Bulldogs in the 2004 grand final, but the rivalry between these two sides is every bit as fierce as what it was on that fateful night.
From tearful fans to controversial tries – did Kane Evans ground it in 2015? – the battle between east and west is one of the premier conflicts in rugby league.
The Bulldogs hate the Roosters for poaching Braith Anasta, Mark O'Meley, Nate Myles, Willie Mason and Sonny Bill Williams, while those in Bondi still cry foul over Hazem el Masri's second effort in 2004 that ultimately changed the game.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and new history is set to be made.
The Bulldogs would love nothing more than to chalk up a crucial early-season victory after falling 12-6 to the Storm in Round 1.
The blue and whites entered the game with question marks surrounding their attack, and while the weather didn't help their cause, the lack of spark that plagued them in 2016 was still there for everyone to see.
It was a different story for the revamped Roosters who exploded out of the gates with five first-half tries against the Titans before they took their foot off the pedal in an underwhelming second stanza that undoubtedly upset coach Trent Robinson.
New recruit Luke Keary tore the Titans to shreds with his speed and footwork, while Latrell Mitchell's switch to the centres saw him bag his first hat-trick at NRL level.
Despite contrasting starts to the season, both coaches have named the same 17 from Round 1 of the Telstra Premiership.
Why the Roosters can win: There was a lot to like about the Roosters' attack last week, but it was their left edge that did the most damage. Latrell Mitchell scored a hat-trick, Luke Keary grabbed one of his tries down that flank, and Daniel Tupou caused chaos every time he touched the ball. They'll look to exploit that side of the field on Thursday night against a Bulldogs right-edge combination that gave up a soft try to Cheyse Blair. In 2016, the Roosters scored more tries down their left (29) than any area on the field, while the Bulldogs allowed 34 tries down their right; easily their worst.
Why the Bulldogs can win: Canterbury will head into this one with a perfect record in Round 2 matches under coach Des Hasler. The Bulldogs are five-from-five since Hasler joined the club in 2012, winning them at an average of 18 points per game.
PLAYER HEAD-TO-HEAD | LUKE KEARY V JOSH REYNOLDS
84 | RUN METRES | 159
2 | TRIES | 1
2 | LINE BREAKS | 0
The history: Played 169; Roosters 84; Bulldogs 80; Drawn 5. It was one-way traffic in 2016 with the Bulldogs winning both meetings by 12 and four points respectively. However, the Roosters had won six of the previous seven clashes, with four of those wins by 14 or more points, while the blue and whites have also lost three of their past four matches at Allianz Stadium, including last year's finals meltdown against Penrith.
What are the odds: The money is running 8:1 in favour of the Roosters in the head-to-head market, with Sportsbet receiving twice as many individual bets on them. Fresh from his opening round hat-trick, Latrell Mitchell is the best-backed for first tryscorer ahead of Roosters winger Daniel Tupou. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Ben Cummins. Assistant referee: Chris Sutton. Sideline officials: Tim Roby and Belinda Sleeman.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live coverage from 7.30pm. Fox League – Live coverage from 7.00pm.
NRL.com predicts: Expect plenty of feeling in this one as two of the best forward packs go toe-to-toe in a battle that could well decide the contest. The Bulldogs must gain some ascendency through the middle if they want to notch their first win of the season, but we can’t see that happening. It took the Tricolours nine rounds to record their second win of 2016. It'll take them just two in 2017. Roosters by 12.
This article first appeared on NRL.COM