Sydney Roosters 34 (M Jennings 2 M Aubusson M Kennedy A Minichiello D Tupou tries; J Maloney 5 goals) bt St George Illawarra Dragons 10 (M Cooper J Nightingale tries; J Soward goal).
Crowd: 40,752 at Allianz Stadium.
You could normally count on games against the Dragons for a loss, no matter what type of form they were in. They’d won the past five clashes on Anzac day and eight of the 11 matches played between the teams on April 25 each year.
But you can officially stick that hoodoo in the same place that Bulldogs fans are storing the “SBW: We Haven’t Forgotten” banners — up an arse. Preferably someone else’s.
The Roosters slaughtered a team that had won three straight games and conceded just 40 points in that time by piling on 34 points and setting themselves up for a season where every other team will now consider them a test.
Make no mistake, this is a real threat you are supporting here.
The Dragons were admittedly as limp in attack as a doodle in a cold shower, but the Roosters scrambled to defend every near-break and half chance, especially in the second half when the Roosters had to defend for four straight sets.
And Jamie Soward was shit. Which was good.
We are now safe from the possibility that Soward will ever be awarded the Ashton-Collier Medal for best on ground at the Anzac Day Clash, as Phil Gould inexplicably gave him a four year deal to shift to Penrith and as a result this was his last ever ANZAC Day clash.
The Roosters are now — if they weren’t already — up to their necks in the premiership discussion, and even though it’s just round seven it’s hard to see how anyone can beat them if they can replicate this form in the finals.
And yes, that includes Melbourne and the Rabbitohs.
And yes, they will make the finals. Lock it in.
Yes, yes, yes.
(Hey, remember when we totally sucked last year? Neither do I.)
Man of the Match.
Boyd Cordner was the official winner of the inaugural Ashton-Collier Medal, and while he put in his best performance of the year by far, the 26 Rounds Man of the Match could only go to one player, a player who finally gets married after six weeks of being the bridesmaid.
This was perhaps the best game Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has ever played. He continually bent the defence back when he was on the field in his most complete attacking performance ever: 18 hit-ups for 147 metres, with four offloads.
Most of these offloads are going directly to Jake Friend, who is taking advantage of the second phase to perfection by taking the play away from the initial contact with probing runs. The point is, the offloads aren’t just there for the sake of them, they are adding to the attack and hitting the intended man on the chest beautifully.
JWH was incredible in defence as well, and as always. He made 29 with just the one miss. And he didn’t give away a penalty. Again.
Is this the same guy from last year?
Jake Friend had a blinder in game 100.
What more can you ask of a guy who is so friggin’ small?
Friend’s running game, which in the past has been non-existent, has truly been first-rate recently.
Last week he set up two tries and in this one he set up another with a deft grubber for Michael Jennings. But out of dummy half he is asking questions of every single run, and is probing the defence like an alien with an anal rod.
He’s credited with four runs for 48 metres, but this obviously doesn’t take into account the times he runs and finds runners. He’s stepping more and making defences uncomfortable, and his service has been near-perfect.
It’s been impossible to fault his performances in the past three weeks, and is earning a reputation as one of the more creative hookers in the competition. If you said that as recently as a month ago you would’ve been kicked in the junk.
The Roosters have the best bench in the NRL.
The Roosters’ success was always going to be dependant on whatever Luke O’Donnell had left in the tank and whether Martin Kennedy could ever find the form he showed in 2011 before injuries set him back.
Thankfully, LOD has enough left to make an impact when he comes on, and Kennedy is back to his 2011 level of performances.
Kennedy gave away three penalties and ran it just six times, and until he cuts the penalties out of his game he’ll continue to be a limited-minutes interchange player, especially given the great form of Sam Moa.
But the impact of his runs is back at least, and he’s another big bopper that can keep the relentless attack up the middle consistent throughout the whole game.
Combine this with Daniel Mortimer’s resurrection — which has enabled Friend to stay fresh at the end of games — and Aidan Guerra, and you are looking at the best bench the NRL has to offer.
Kennedy barged over for a try off a Mortimer bullet close to the line which epitomised exactly what this bench brings to a game: sustained pressure, fresh legs and superb effort.
LOD had nine runs and 15 tackles in limited minutes and that’s really all the need from him, while Guerra comes on and offers an unpredictability to their forward attack with that awkward running style.
And Daniel Mortimer has been an absolute revelation as a dummy half this year — and the early season pressure he placed on Friend has pushed the first-choice hooker to the best form of his career in the past three rounds.
The halves’ attack is beautiful to watch.
We’re more accustomed to James Maloney breaking the line forty metres out, but in this game it was his attack in the opposition 10 metres which really stood out.
The BBQ threw a beautiful ball from broken play out wide to Daniel Tupou for a try, and threw another incredible cutout for Tupou unmarked, but it was called just forward.
He also had some nice grubbers which applied pressure and both he and MP7 split the chipping duties.
And this was MP7’s best attacking performance of the year. He’s the best support-play halfback this side of Cooper Cronk, and his bravery creates chances — he ran straight at Nightingale to draw him and passed just as he was getting cleaned up to Minichiello. Any other halfback preserves themselves and passes before the contact, but MP7 takes the hit and guarantees an unmarked support player.
His short kicking game is getting there too, with another neat little grubber in this one. He ran it six times with a try assist and peppered Morris and Vidot with kicks all game — including one which Tupou bobbled over the line.
Jennings — wow.
You could sense from his first touch that Jennings was going to put on a show. And what a show it was.
His in-and-away without losing speed to score in the first half would’ve made a murderer weep at the beauty of it. He also had several across-the-field runs when he almost broke the line after straightening up, and the Dragons defence couldn’t touch him. It was like he had diplomatic immunity.
You have to wonder why Phil Gould let this guy go from Penrith — is he secretly working with the Roosters or something?
Because you don’t just lose a player of this calibre with nothing to show for it.
The centre was far more involved in this game after touching it just six times last week. In all he ran for 134 metres with three tackle busts.
But defensively he stood out once again, and is quickly changing the perception that he’s a one-way player. He had 12 tackles and no misses, and several one-on-one tackles against the likes of Morris and Cooper.
…and Sonny Bill.
Yep, he played pretty well too.
Stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):