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Sonny Bill Williams in week one of the NRL Finalshttp://c1.puntersparadise.net/news/photos/Sonny Bill Williams in week one of the NRL Finals-1381024874_n.jpg

No romance, just class in NRL decider

Sonny Bill Williams in week one of the NRL Finals

It may not have the romance of the fairytale decider many were tipping but there's little doubt the NRL grand final between the Sydney Roosters and Manly involves the best two sides of 2013.
No romance, just class in NRL decider
by AAP

By Steve Jancetic

SYDNEY, Oct 4 AAP - It may not have the romance of the fairytale decider many were tipping but there's little doubt the NRL grand final between the Sydney Roosters and Manly involves the best two sides of 2013.

The rampant Sea Eagles' preliminary final demolition of South Sydney may have scuppered the prospect of the league's greatest traditional rivals going head-to-head on the biggest stage.

But it also confirmed them as the most worthy competitors for minor premiers the Roosters at ANZ Stadium on Sunday - and gave them the chance to add another title to one of the most dominant dynasties of the NRL's salary cap era.

The Roosters will attempt to become just the eighth side in the past 40 years to win a title after missing the finals the previous season.

Of course this is a Roosters side barely resembling the one which fumbled its way through the 2012 campaign - the impact of star recruits Sonny Bill Williams, James Maloney and Michael Jennings brilliantly managed by rookie coach Trent Robinson.

The Roosters could hardly have been more impressive in their turnaround, becoming the first side ever to hold opponents scoreless six times in a season.

But while they finished three places lower on the ladder, the Sea Eagles have not been far behind the men from Bondi.

They finished first and third in points per game (Roosters 26.3, Manly 23.8), first and second in tries per game (Roosters 4.5, Manly 4.3), and took the top two places in average line-breaks (Roosters 5.7, Manly 5.2)

Defensively they are even closer and more dominant.

Top two in points conceded (Roosters 13, Manly 15.1), tries conceded (Roosters 2.2, Manly 2.6), metres conceded (Manly 1234.7, Roosters 1287.9) and line-breaks conceded (Roosters 2.7, Manly 3.2).

About the only place they have been noticeably separable has been in the wins column in their match-ups in 2013 - the Roosters won all three contests between the two sides.

None of those games was a blow-out, leaving Manly coach Geoff Toovey confident there won't need to be any dramatic changes to turn the tables on Sunday.

In their latest clash - an epic 4-0 win to the Roosters in the opening week of the finals - the Sea Eagles dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard.

"We need to take our opportunities," Toovey said.

"We just couldn't quite get across the line (in the qualifying final), whether it be bad luck or really good defence from the Roosters.

"We've just got to try to take those opportunities and make the most of them."

Which is exactly what the Roosters have been doing in 2013.

In the background of their run to the decider has been uncertainty over the future of superstar dual-international Williams, with increasing speculation season 2013 could be a hit-and-run mission before he returns to rugby union in New Zealand.

While the Roosters have been far more than a one-man team, Williams has been a crucial part of their success.

Who knows if their stars will align like this again.

That's why the Roosters know they too can't pass up this chance.

"It's not just the boys playing, it's for everyone else involved in the club," said halfback Mitchell Pearce, one of seven leftovers from the side which lost the 2010 grand final.

"I've been here for a while now, it's time to do it."




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