SOUTH SYDNEY 28 (N Merritt 3 G Burgess C McQueen tries A Reynolds 4 goals) beat SYDNEY ROOSTERS 10 (J Maloney S Williams tries J Maloney goal).
Crowd: 35,952 at Allianz Stadium.
Penalties, penalties, penalties.
I thought with a new coach, a fresh start and an injection of superstars we’d be able to cut this shit out but it appears that it’s going to be more of the same for 2013.
And if it continues to adversely affect this team, there’s going to be some changes to the first grade swap that we thought might be radical but which may end up being inevitable.
But more on that later.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the Sydney Roosters were absolutely dominated by the South Sydney Rabbitohs 28-10, with the Roosters scoring just after kick-off and just before the final siren. So in effect, we were overrun for roughly 73 minutes of the match by a team which – as I mentioned in my preview earlier last week – have been together for a year and looked cohesive.
We looked every bit the team that had just come together, and as I alluded to in that same column, will take some real time to gel.
Let’s get the positives out of the game first. Don’t worry, we’ll be quick.
Positive: Michael Jennings
He looked dangerous every time he touched the ball and broke the Bunnies wide open midway through the second half before throwing a horrible low pass to the tallest winger in the NRL (behind Edrick Lee), Daniel Tupou.
The combination out on the left-hand side, like all combinations in this team, is simply going to take time to gel. But it looks promising. Tupou was perfectly placed for the pass but it just didn’t stick.
Either way, the left side attack, given time, will be incredibly potent as Jennings will continue to get quality ball from his halves for the first time in his career.
Positive: The halves
It’s hard to stand out when your team is thoroughly dominated and starved of possession thanks to penalties caused elsewhere in the team, but both Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney looked good when they did have it.
MP7 gets grief for his kicking game from some quarters but, in the small sample size when the Roosters were actually able to get to their kick, he found space regularly. He was cleaned up in one tackle and lost the ball – one of 12 errors by the Roosters –but otherwise did a solid job with not much to work with.
He lost a clear points decision to Adam Reynolds, whose kicking game is simply first class. I still feel Reynolds doesn’t run the ball that much, having only one real run at the line in the whole game, and I do believe MP7 is the more complete player. But this game won’t do much to quell the media throng baying for Reynolds to take the State of Origin Halfback spot.
James Maloney didn’t set the world alight by any means, but he did score the first try of the match and attacked the line as always.
And there was one play in the game in particular which bodes well for the season.
Near the end of the second half, Sonny Bill Williams received the ball on the left hand side and threw the ball back inside to a streaking James Maloney who found space easily. It’s just a shame that the pass was a metre forward, but still.
It’s this combination, more than the Jennings-Tupou or Maloney-Pearce combination, which given time will prove to be positively lethal near the back end of the season, if not earlier.
Speaking of which…
Positive: Sonny Bill Williams
In a word: rusty.
However, the last 20-odd minutes he managed to shake off some of the rust and show rugby league fans what some of the hype was all about.
The last try he scored of a Frank-Paul ball was vintage SBW, and he managed to play 53 straight minutes while tackling his arse off and adapting to the game.
He only offloaded twice, but that will obviously change as the season goes on, and Bunnies fans continue to point to when Sam Burgess rolled over the top of him as evidence that he had a shocker.
Well, it didn’t knock him out and the hit was bigger than the actual effect: SBW actually didn’t fall off the tackle and ended up completing it.
(Am I clutching at straws? Maybe…)
Statistically, and considering he’d been out of the game for five years, he did well.
He made 55 metres off seven runs, with two tackle busts, a line break, two offloads and 26 tackles, with his offensive stats coming with very limited ball.
Mick Crocker brought up a very interesting point on the Sunday Footy Show though: why was he playing so close to the middle? He’s at his most devastating attacking halves but he was defending front rowers (see Burgess, Sam) and was used as a battering ram.
Also, he attacked the left side for the majority of the second half when for the majority of his career he’s been a right-side second rower, while Jake Friend simply went away from him on several occasions when he was begging for it.
He’s not a battering ram, one. Give him the damn ball, two.
Now for the negatives. Buckle up.
Negative: the right side defence.
I said during that preview that the Roosters, man-for-man, didn’t have any noticeable weaknesses.
Boy was I fucking wrong.
Simply put, that right-side weakness was diabolical and underscores the point that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is not a winger. He’s a fullback, and the sooner you shift him there the better.
We can’t entirely put the blame on a guy who’s only been playing Rugby League for a little over a year, but it looks like he’s been learning the nuances of the game by watching videos of Chris Walker in defence.
I can almost forgive the three Merritt tries because, after all, he’s a tryscorer.
But the unforgivable one was the Chris McQueen try when he was able to catch a loose bomb, swivel around, make a cup of tea, and take a slow-as-molasses diagonal run to the corner.
Someone should’ve been able to get to him. The Sheck, the incredibly disappointing Shaun Kenny-Dowall, anyone.
I don’t doubt they can fix that defence, as it’s just a matter of RTS staying out wide and allowing Anthony Minchiello to follow the ball and act as insurance there.
But on Thursday, that fucking sucked.
I mean, this is self-explanatory. We lost the count 9-4 and really, it wasn’t even that close.
But it’s the laziness that causes these penalties that really irked me and the Roosters fans around me on Thursday night.
Jake Friend, for all of his pound-for-pound toughness, needs to get the fuck off the tackled player quicker. It’s really that simple. Or…
Negative: team selections.
Friend could struggle to hold his spot if Trent Robinson, who preached discipline in the preseason, doesn’t see improvement in his hooker soon. Not only that, his service out of dummy half was lacking and helped limit the effectiveness of the halves.
Friend has players who are breathing down his neck in Nafe Seluini, who has a superior running game and is clearly less of a target in defence just from his size alone; and Daniel Mortimer, who gives it his all and is desperate to prove himself.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall also needs to pull his finger firmly out as well, because Tautau Moga will be back in 10 weeks or so and out of all the backs, he clearly offered the least in attack.
As bad as the left-side defence was, at least it looked dangerous and defensive schemes can be easily fixed. You can’t fix erratic play and you can’t teach effort.
Sam Moa didn’t offer a great deal other than being a battering ram, nor did Marty Kennedy. Lama Tasi, when he returns, should take one of these spots.
I expected the Roosters to win, but I always expect them to win. I wasn’t surprised that they lost though.
Greg Inglis is the best player in the game, hands down. He simply dominated as a second five-eighth and he picks out the perfect times to run other than overplaying his hand like, say, a Jarryd Hayne.
In my opinion he’s a special for the Dally M this year.
John Sutton was special in the second half too. He was impossible to put down and his offloads created second-phase play that led to two tries.
Adam Reynolds also had a great game with 56 per cent of possession to work with, controlling the game perfectly.
But the Roosters showed signs that they will be a good team with a bit of practice.
We actually broke the line six times to the Bunnies’ four, but didn’t capitalise. We lost the possession 56 per cent to 44 per cent, and the Bunnies had a full 14 extra completed sets.
It should have been a bigger scoreline than it was.
With the decline of the Dogs (pending Barba not playing this year) and the expected decline of the Sharks – two teams who were really expected to contend this year – the Bunnies have to be up there as major threats to the Melbourne Storm.
But if we fix up our left-side defence (achieveable) and ill-discipline (we’ve been saying this for three years so maybe it’s the norm?) we should be up there near the end. But It’s going to take time and patience. The tools are all there.
And give SBW five to six weeks to get into game shape. Again: patience.
Game stats (courtesy of The Sydney Morning Herald):
Tackles: Jake Friend 40, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 33, Sonny Bill Williams 28, Frank-Paul Nuuausala 23.
Runs: Anthony Minichiello 14 (119m), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 13 (108m), Sam Moa 13 (106m), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 12 (113m).
Offloads: Anthony Minichiello 2, Sonny Bill Williams 2, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 1, Frank-Paul Nuuausala 1.
Metres: Anthony Minichiello 119m, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 113m, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 108m, Sam Moa 106m.
Linebreaks: Mitchell Aubusson 2, Michael Jennings 1, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 1, James Maloney 1
Kicks: Mitchell Pearce 8 (308m), James Maloney 6 (196m), Daniel Mortimer 1 (3m)
Tackles: Chris McQueen 26, Ben Lowe 26, Issac Luke 23, Sam Burgess 22.
Runs: Sam Burgess 16 (153m), George Burgess 16 (153m), Issac Luke 15 (96m), Ben Lowe 13 (98m).
Offloads: John Sutton 3, Ben Te’o 3, Issac Luke 2, Nathan Merritt 1.
Metres: Sam Burgess 153m, George Burgess 153m, Greg Inglis 134m, Ben Lowe 98m.
Linebreaks: Nathan Merritt 2, Greg Inglis 1, George Burgess 1.
Kicks: Adam Reynolds 17 (474m), John Sutton 2 (33m), Issac Luke 1 (41m), Nathan Peats 1 (8m).