Sydney Roosters 38 (S Williams 2 M Jennings J Maloney D Mortimer R Tuivasa-Sheck tries J Maloney 7 goals) bt BULLDOGS.
Crowd: 22,552 at Allianz Stadium.
Maybe the next time the Roosters sign a Bulldogs superstar, Dogs fans should just let it go. Burn the “SBW: We Haven’t Forgotten” sign, or chuck it into the garage with the “Bought not bred” flag from 2008. Because evidence is mounting that the strategy of coming to Roosters games and paying for tickets — which ironically helps to pay for said signings — just so you can yell at the player simply doesn’t work.
Sonny Bill Williams scored two tries against his former club in the 38-0 drubbing, matching fellow Kennel outcast Willie Mason’s return game in 2008 when he also crossed for a brace. But Sonny Bill topped that performance with a brilliant cutout right in front of those very fans who surely must now let it go. The shit doesn’t work, guys.
The Roosters made the Bulldogs look like they couldn’t find a gap in a maze full of glory-holes. The defence was impregnable and prevented last year’s grand finalists from ever winding up, again holding a perfect line and again not conceding a break — this time against a team featuring Josh Reynolds, Josh Morris and Ben Barba.
They crowded Ben Barba from all angles and even Shaun Kenny-Dowall looked like a third Hindmarsh brother out there, shutting down Josh Morris better than anyone has so far this year.
The defence is clearly the best in the league when the team remains focussed, and focus should be at an all-time high around finals time. What, you need more evidence?
In the past five games, including the 16-14 win over the Warriors and the loss to the Raiders last week, the Roosters have not allowed a single point in eight of the 10 halves they’ve played, and none in the first five halves of each game. And in three of the past four games they’ve not had their line broken once nor conceded a point.
26 Rounds argued in the Rabbitohs match preview that the Roosters had no weaknesses — an argument disputed by some Rabbitohs fan in the comments. But save for one half in the past four matches they haven’t been broken. Unbelieveable.
The Roosters have now scored 118 points and conceded just 24 in four games, an average scoreline of 29.5 to 6.
Trent Robinson has done a superb job after just six rounds and with a pre-season where the Roosters had to welcome four new players, and three just a month out, to make everyone accountable for their space on the field.
Lost in all this is that the Bulldogs are reigning Grand Finalists. And the Roosters beat them easily — a team that was woeful last year, remember.
Man of the Match.
You’d think that Sonny Bill Williams would be the MotM after answering all the hype with a two-try performance.
Wrong, but not by much.
The BBQ was simply on fire in this one, and 26 Rounds is struggling to name a more in-form half in the competition.
James Maloney had seven runs for 103 metres, two tackle busts, one line break, a try assist to Daniel Mortimer and a try off a clever Jake Friend grubber.
He has no step whatsoever, no flair in his kicking game and his passing is directly out of the 80’s. But he runs the best angles of anyone in the league, always finds the grass on long kicks, is switched on upstairs and nearly always chooses the right options.
Plus, he’s tough. In two straight weeks he’s marked up against Josh Papalii and Tony Williams and held his own each time in defence against two of the most damaging ball runners (on their day) in the world.
Not far behind him was Sonny Bill — who we’ll discuss in much greater detail below — and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who again showed why he’s the form front rower in the league with 91 metres off nine runs, 31 tackles and a career-high (probably) four offloads.
Just behind them was MP7, who I thought struggled with his kicking game in the first half but bounced back with a dominant halfback’s game in the second half.
When Sonny Bill misses out, it just shows you how good the BBQ was.
The Sheck’s Shtep and his apprenticeship.
If Roger Tuivasa Sheck is marked up one on one with anyone, it’s game over.
The step he put on Ben Barba was exhilarating, as the fullback was running across the field to recover off the Sheck’s break. RTS saw the play before it happened and pre-emptively stepped back infield, preventing Barba from making a cover tackle before he really had a chance to think about it.
We can only imagine what he’s capable of once he makes the move to fullback, coming through the middle with support players each side and with just his opposite in front of him.
But it’s doubtful we’ll see the move this year.
For one, the players just love Minichiello, and he’s earned that love. He’s come back from the brink and trains harder than anyone at the club. The coaching staff admire his work ethic and he is still as safe under the hgih ball as they come.
While 26 Rounds penned a piece detailing how The Sheck needs to be put back there, it probably won’t happen this year — unless Mini gives it up.
And after the Sheck’s performances this season, Mini might be compelled to do so. In this game RTS ran for 153 metres off 18 runs, with four tackle busts, a line break and a try.
And that fucking shtep. My lord.
Weapons across the park.
You know your attack’s good when you can completely ignore your leftside offence and superstar centre in Michael Jennings and still score 38 points.
Jennings ran it just six times — and still managed to score — while Daniel Tupou ran it just nine times, mostly off kick returns.
Instead, the attack was spread out across the rest of the field, and four different players had try assists.
Jake Friend in particular has shown he is back in some superb form, his running game is back and he is identifying holes and opportunities when they come up. His grubber with two Roosters players chasing was perfect, leading to the BBQ’s try, and his in-and-away following a JWH offload set up the final try for Jennings.
And Mitchell Pearce is directing this team around the park superbly, his two late at-the-line passes leading to SBW’s two tries.
Even Kenny-Dowall got in on the act, throwing an around-the-corner offload at one stage and leading to a mini-break.
Sonny Bill Effing Williams. Sign this man for life.
We here at the 26 Rounds offices have always considered Nick Politis a Godfather-type figure — heck, every Roosters fan considers him a Don Corleone.
So it’s time that Uncle Nick channels his inner Don and makes SBW an offer he can’t refuse.
After the display he put on against the Bulldogs, SBW has returned to the top tier of NRL players alongside Billy Slater, Cam Smith and Jonathan Thurston. And when you consider the impact he’s had on this squad which was nothing but hapless last year, it’s not a stretch to think he’s numero uno.
With that in mind, Politis needs to open up the chequebook and ensure that the back-rower who is redefining back-row play stays on for an extra season at the very least.
Firstly, we have to stop considering him a typical back-rower, and consider him more a huge halfback/five-eighth with a massive fend and a killer offload.
He’s a half-rower. That’ll do.
His work rate — 7 runs for 47 metres, two line breaks, a try and linebreak assist and five tackle busts — is more reflective of a half who picks his spots — and every spot he’s picking is golden at this point.
We’ve mentioned him here before, but the most famous man on Twitter, Ryan Heighway (@_heighway) predicted this would be SBW’s best game. Considering the hype, the pressure and the opposition, this game blows away his performance against Parramatta. His presence also means a lot to his team, who clearly understood the moment. Watch the video above and after The Sheck’s try you can see MP7 hyping the Bulldogs’ fans behind the line to make more noise. The players love him — and that moment showed how much the game actually meant to Sonny, despite all his pre-match talk that it was just another game. But I digress.
His running game, when he chooses to run, is back to what it was before he left the Dogs, but its that sweet cut-out that shows you how much he’s grown in five years. We give rugby a lot of shit but it’s made the best backrower in the game so much better.
If Thurston is worth $1.25m a season for five seasons at the age of 29, then SBW is worth at least that when you consider he is firmly in his athletic prime.
Whatever the salary cap increase is next year, give it all to Williams and let players go to offer him more. And then give him a brown paper bag with the keys to a Maserati on top of it, plus the promise of a role with the club once it’s all said and done.
After rigourous debate here at the 26 Rounds newly-refurbished harbourview offices, a $2m deal per season would probably be considered a bargain.
Stats courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):