The Roosters thoroughly demolished the Tigers 28-16 in front of five brave fans at Allianz on the weekend.
In what was the last trial before the season proper kicks off on March 7, the Chooks were directed superbly around the park by new halves combination Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney and the four point lead at halftime ballooned to 28-6 points before two late Tiger tries drew the game closer than it actually was.
Combine this with the dominant display in last week’s win over 2012 semi-finalists Manly and expectations are starting to build for the Tricolours.
We need to keep expectations down until we know what we are getting from SBW (five years out of the game, coming off a pec injury) and trials don’t mean shit; three preseasons ago they were touting Jack Bosden the next Sam Burgess after a dominant display in the Charity Shield (or “Centrelink Cup” if the Twittersphere had its way).
But damn they looked good. Across the park, even without Sonny Bill Williams, there was no weakness in the attack. From wing to wing, every player asked questions of the attack and it was relentless.
There were a few key takeaways from this game:
A) The left-side attack starring Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou (or when he returns, Tautau Moga) will quickly become one of the more devastating off-the-cuff attacking combinations in recent memory;
B) The right side with SKD and RTS will be just as lethal when SBW gets a start;
C) Boyd Cordner is taking the next step this year, as The Australian alluded to in this article;
D) We all now know who the fuck Sam Moa is, and boy did we get a steal; and
E) This is now Mitchell Pearce’s team.
Let’s break those takeaways down, one-by-one:
The Left Edge.
Michael Jennings really needs no explanation of what he can do; he’s got more steps than a twitchy tap dancer with Tourette’s and is always leaving at least one defender wanting.
What really surprised me in this game is the involvement of Danny Tupou in that he took Sam Perrett’s old mantra and ran from dummy half after kick returns, and went looking for the ball.
(Tautau could learn a lesson or two from DT.)
He’s quick and huge, more like Izzy Folau that Moga — who many compared him too — is, as evidenced from his try off a Maloney wing-chip. But he’s more steppy than Folau and potentially more skilled. He has probably cemented that wing spot now ahead of Oldfield who simply doesn’t offer the same skill set.
The Right Edge.
I found it hard to notice RTS in this one, as SKD rarely passes the ball under any circumstances and usually runs against the run of play.
When RTS was moved to fullback late in the game we got to see him shine, but with Mini there for the forseeable future The Sheck will have to find more involvement out on the right wing.
With SBW that should happen.
Sonny Bill has the ability to flick the ball inside to a wing/centre who has come in behind him, or draw defenders from the wing and flip the ball over the defence.
So the Sheck will get involved simply through SBW becoming a target, and should get the space to operate.
And with Kenny-Dowall proving as always to be a handful, the all-acronym right side has the potential to be just as lethal.
I’ve oscillated between Boyd being a Dream Team must-have (Vice Captain, starting, workhorse), to dropping him completely (LOD signing meant potential reduced minutes).
He’s a must-have again.
That line he ran off a beautiful MP7 short ball was first-class, and he tackled his arse off as he always does.
In addition, despite the game being a trial and despite the presence of Luke O’Donnell off the bench, Cordner played roughly 60 minutes.
He should lead the back row in tackles and line breaks (even with Aiden Guerra off the bench) and looks like the VC tag has lifted his game and his leadership to a whole new level.
I also loved the way he celebrated his try by flinging the ball into the empty stands. Nice, Boyd.
Sam Moa, from Tonga.
Sam Moa could be one of the best signings of the season if we go off just this game. No-one had heard of him prior to the trials and even I questioned the merit of his signature considering all the stocks they have ready to go (Lama Tasi, Kane Evans, Napa).
But Moa looks to have cemented that front-row rotation spot off the bench for Round 1.
He makes an extra one or two metres once he hits the defence, he’s a fucking handful and noone runs at him. Seriously, and I for one don’t blame them.
If you combine him with other players one should avoid in SBW, JWH and FPN, then its reasonable to assume that Cordner, Jake Friend and Marty Kennedy could make 80 tackles a game each.
(Clearly this is a stretch. It’s more like 70 a game.)
If you bring him off the bench with LOD, Guerra and Aubo, you have four players who attack you in completely different ways and they lose absolutely nothing when one of those guys comes on. Nothing.
This is MP7’s team. Officially.
There was a lot of deserved love for James Maloney after a performance where he set up two tries including off a patented line break to set up Daniel Mortimer (who may have sealed himself the backup hooker role, albeit with no real space left on the bench, with a pesky performance) and a beautiful chip to Tupou in the first half.
All deserved, sure, but I take my hat off to Mitchell Pearce, who exhibited a confidence and swagger befitting a guy who just signed a four year deal, and a guy who knows now that this is HIS team.
He directed the team around brilliantly from halfback and got everyone involved. He went to Jennings just as many times as he went to SKD.
The short ball he threw for Cordner was just perfect, his kicking game was spot on and defensively as always he was strong.
But where I was impressed was when he put that little grubber behind the line for himself. He didn’t regather it, but it shows that he’s going to look for his own as well this year. His biggest criticism is that he doesn’t offer enough in attack, and that play there showed me that he’s aware of it and ready to change it.
I fully expect a career year from him, and changing his game up in this way by throwing a little Carney-like flair and selfishness into his game will only serve to guarantee that.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 28 Tries: Boyd Cordner, Daniel Tupou, Daniel Mortimer, Michael Jennings, Aiden Guerra. Goals: 3, J Maloney.
WESTS TIGERS 16 Tries: Benji Marshall, Joel Reddy, Matt Utai. Goals: 2, B Marshall
Here’s the related coverage from the Telegraph, Herald and the Aus, which i’m sure you’ve already seen: