Schick Hydro Preview: Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys
The clash between two top four contenders in the Sydney Roosters and the North Queensland Cowboys will have finals implications with just six weeks of the regular season remaining.
If the Cowboys can win by nine or more they'll jump into fourth place, while a win by less will have the Roosters sliding as low as fourth if the Brisbane Broncos and Cronulla Sharks win their games.
It will be a tough game for both sides with the Roosters unable to name their best 17, still without Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner, while Cowboys Shaun Fensom (ribs) and Scott Bolton (illness) aren't certain starters. Both Cowboys are expected to play, but have had disrupted training throughout the week.
Why the Roosters can win: The loss of Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner will definitely impact the Roosters' leadership, particularly in the forwards.
Big men Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Dylan Napa will need to step up to match the endurance the Cowboys forwards have shown in previous weeks.
If they can stay in the slow, grinding style of game the Cowboys have been playing, halves Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary will be able to notch up some try assists for their outside backs.
Between them the Roosters' halves have been averaging one and a half try assists per game, as well as a line break and 140 metres of running.
It's a handy halves combination to have on the back of the efforts of Napa and Waerea-Hargreaves, who average 100 and 140 metres per game respectively.
Why the Cowboys can win: North Queensland have a point to prove after defeating four of the lower-placed teams in a row.
If they can beat the Roosters they'll prove that they are a top-four side, even without their captains.
They matched the Warriors' massive pack last week, but with the Roosters it will be more about aggression than size.
Every tackle and run will be at 100 per cent with the Roosters, and a lapse for even a few minutes will gift Pearce and Keary field position to work with.
By the same token there seems to be no stopping Bolton, Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess, and with Michael Morgan and Te Maire Martin getting more training and game-time under their belt each week they'll be eager to prove they're a good pairing by putting points on the Roosters if they can get the field position.
HEAD-TO-HEAD | JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES V SCOTT BOLTON
18 | PLAYED | 18
2542 | RUNNING METRES | 2481
17 | TACKLE BREAKS | 20
17 | OFFLOADS | 2
The history: Roosters v Cowboys: Played 34; Roosters 24; Cowboys 10.
This match-up is about as lop-sided as it gets, and at Allianz Stadium the Cowboys fair even worse against the Roosters, having won just six of their 19 games there against the Tricolours.
Match officials: Referee: Grant Atkins. Assistant referee: Chris Sutton. Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Dave Ryan. Review officials: Bernard Sutton and Luke Patten.
Televised: Fox League – Live coverage from 7.30pm
How we see it: Both sides have everything to play for and have had disrupted preparations leading up to the game.
The result will hinge on which forward pack can dig deep for the small efforts late in the game.
If either Pearce or Morgan have standout performances they'll likely tip the balance, but all things being even the Tricolours will edge Paul Green's side.
Roosters by 4.
This article first appeared on NRL.COM