Wests Tigers will look to record back-to-back wins over the Sydney Roosters for the first time since 2009 when they meet this afternoon at Allianz Stadium.
After kicking off the 2018 season with a thrilling 10-8 win over the Tricolours back in Round 1, Ivan Cleary's side will be out to consolidate on their strong start to the year when they take on the Roosters this afternoon — one of just four games to be played this weekend as the byes over Origin begin.
Currently sitting inside the top eight, the next four games heading in to the Round 17 bye are shaping as crucial ones for Wests Tigers: tough away games against the Roosters and Sharks are followed by home games against the Raiders and Titans, both of which will be at the club's suburban home grounds.
It all starts today against Trent Robinson's Roosters, who themselves will be desperate to avenge that Round 1 upset and remind the competition they can still win games without their Origin superstars.
Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary look to be clicking more and more every week, and with a host of talent still available, there's no doubting that the home side will turn up ready to play this afternoon.
It's certainly an intriguing game ahead, and one that isn't without a number of key storylines to watch for...
1. Can Wests Tigers start well against the Roosters?
After missing out on the points in Round 1, expect the Roosters to come out of the blocks firing this afternoon as they seek redemption against Wests Tigers this time around. Wests Tigers did find themselves behind on the scoreboard early on late last week, and while they showed enough nerve and class to eventually come over the top of the Bulldogs in the second half, they'll need to start much better this week if they hope to do the double over the Roosters. In their last six games combined, Wests Tigers have scored just five first half tries — something which they'll need to be better on this afternoon. While they did manage to leave it late in Round 1 and walk away with the two points thanks to a fortuitous late try, you get the feeling that Wests Tigers will need to do more early on in today's game to get the same result.
2. What impact will Josh Reynolds have off the bench?
While the long-term question of what is role in the team presents an interesting question for Ivan Cleary, perhaps the more pertinent one for Wests Tigers fans is what impact Josh Reynolds will have in his "super sub" role this afternoon. The former Origin playmaker was dynamic in his return last week, and his energy soon sparked a comeback for Wests Tigers — putting the Bulldogs on the back foot and crossing late on to win the match. Reynolds wasn't directly involved in either try, but his impact on the game was clear for all to see. So what kind of impact will he have today? We'll have to wait and see, but you'd think there's a chance that the 29-year-old could play bigger minutes this afternoon with no Jacob Liddle in the squad, meaning we might be in for another starring role for Reynolds as he continues his return from injury.
3. How dangerous will the Roosters left edge be?
While the Roosters thrived last week with James Tedesco up the middle of the ruck, the go-to side for the Tricolours this season has been their left edge and the combination of Luke Keary, Boyd Cordner and Latrell Mitchell. Keary finds himself alone in that regard this week as both Cordner and Mitchell prepare for Wednesday's State of Origin series opener, and it'll be interesting to see how that impacts the home side's potency in attack. There's still plenty of firepower out on that side to be wary of, but it might be a different looking attack on the left — something which Wests Tigers will need to be on guard for. Victor Radley has been named on the edge, and you'd think that Isaac Liu would also rotate out there given his ability to play in the back row and his strong left foot step. Both are strong hitters in defence and dangerous with the ball in hand, so it's an important challenge for Wests Tigers right edge this afternoon.
4. Will it come down to goal-kicking again?
In Round 1, it was a clutch sideline conversion from Tuimoala Lolohea as time expired that gave Wests Tigers the points in a thrilling contest, and it might all come down to goal-kicking yet again this afternoon with a close contest predicted. And that in itself presents an interesting sub-plot. After going over a month without missing, Esan Marsters has found himself pushing a few wide in recent weeks — particularly from out wide — and you get the feeling that his conversions are going to have a huge impact on the contest today. If he can find his rhythm again and nail some big shots from out wide, Wests Tigers will certainly take plenty of momentum and energy from that going forward, as well as two crucial points on the scoreboard. And while we're at it, there's also plenty of pressure on the Roosters in this regard: no Latrell Mitchell means either Blake Ferguson or Sio Siua Taukeiaho will probably take over the kicking duties, neither of whom are first-choice kickers. Definitely an interesting one to keep an eye on this afternoon.
5. Can Wests Tigers end their Allianz Stadium hoodoo?
In a season that's seen a number of streaks broken, can Wests Tigers end a few more this afternoon as they look to make it two wins over the Roosters in the same season for the first time since 2011. Not since 2009 have Wests Tigers beaten the Roosters at Allianz Stadium, and the former Sydney Football Ground itself carries a bit of a hoodoo for Wests Tigers — they haven't won there at all since Round 23, 2012 with just one win in their last 13 matches at the venue. Here's hoping another record bites the dust this afternoon!