Sydney Roosters 30 (M Jennings 2 J Friend M Pearce S Williams tries J Maloney 5 goals) bt Penrith Panthers 6 (M Moylan try L Walsh goal).
Crowd: 11,176 at Allianz Stadium.
If you take this result back 12 months, the staff here at 26 Rounds are swinging from chandeliers and having parties like Freddy Mercury used to throw — complete with naked midgets carrying plates of cocaine attached to their heads around. Google it if you don’t believe this shit was once a thing.
But in 2013, a game like this would leave most fans with the feeling they just ejaculated without the good-time feelings of an orgasm.
Are we being spoiled?
After all, we’ve just flogged the Dragons and Bulldogs, and to follow that up with a 30-6 win against a former bogey team is a great result. But this writer was left feeling as flat as a tack — if you smashed that tack with a hammer, rolled over it with a steamroller and then let Gina Rinehart ride it cowgirl-style.
There weren’t very many highs, barely any lows — it was a “meh” game against a team which didn’t capitulate despite the massive scoreline.
And perhaps this is a sign of where this club is: so good that a 30-6 win is a meh game.
Perhaps this feeling dour is a direct result of heightened expectation. Everyone told me that X-Men III sucked but I loved it, and everyone told me that The Avengers was really good but I left the cinema feeling pretty much the exact same way I feel now: meh.
The point is, expectation is usually inversely proportional to the enjoyment derived from the event being hyped. If the Roosters win by two against a good squad, that is somehow better than a 24-point win against an also-ran, even if they’re all worth just two points in the end.
The Roosters now come up against the Manly Sea Eagles (away), North Queensland Cowboys (away) and Melbourne Storm (home). 26 Rounds is expecting a bigger test than today: and today the result was nothing more than a pass. We’ll need distinctions and high-distinctions for the next three weeks.
Man of the Match.
Jared. Waerea. Hargreaves.
The big prop channelled his inner Magic Johnson with a sublime no-look pass for Mitchell Pearce’s try, the final one of the match.
But to limit the praise for the bug Kuywuy to a simple pass would be to downplay another phenomenal effort from the best front-rower in the game.
Fifteen hit ups for 152 metres, two offloads, 29 tackles, a try assist and no penalties against Tim Grant and Mose Masoe. He continually had the Panthers on the back foot, and his passing game — including that no-look pass — has elevated him to the very top of the props this year. Only the Cowboys’ front rowers haver a claim to the mantle.
Behind him were SBW, Boyd, Aubo and MJ — but no-one stood out the way JWH did.
Frank Paul will really struggle to get back in.
If Moa can recover from the injury he picked up in the first five minutes of this one, then this is the team you will see for the rest of the season, injury permitting.
And Frank Paul Nu’uasala might struggle to make it back into this squad after returning from injury two weeks ago and plowing his trade with Newtown since.
Luke O’Donnell was offloading yesterday like he was Arthur Beetson, and ran it well off the bench up the middle once Moa was forced off. He ran for 103 metres off 12 runs with four offloads and 21 tackles. That’s a bigger work rate than FPN has had in two seasons.
He won’t replace Aubo, who was close to the 26 Rounds man of the match in this one. Seven hit-ups for 57 metres with 25 tackles sounds suspiciously like a typical FPN afternoon except when you consider the quality of the work that Mitchell did with that line. He was dangerous throughout and most of those tackles were in cover and scrappy.
And does he replace Guerra? Aidan has been quiet but is a unique runner of the ball and can crack the line where others can’t.
Frank Paul might be a Jet for a while yet.
Michael Jennings’ defence.
We knew that Jenko would score at least once against his old club, and weren’t surprised when he joined Willie Mason and SBW as players who’ve scored two in their first game against their old team.
But Jenko’s defence is becoming among the best for a three-quarter in the game.
Coming into this game he’d missed just two tackles all season, and he left this one having missed just two tackles all season.
He continually wrapped up a dangerous Dean Whare with a number of one-on-one tackles and made 22 in all. He continually stopped attacking raids out wide and the Panthers made it a mission to tire him out in defence.
He still scored two tries despite the increased defensive workload.
Errors like this won’t cut it next week.
The Roosters have made a habit of holding the ball against the better teams in the league, and perhaps the Roosters where using this game to try a few different attacking plays.
But in this one there was a ball from Sonny Bill that ricocheted off Marty Kennedy’s chest, a James Maloney short ball directly to Mose Masoe, some strange kicks before the line and some really out-of-routine play.
You need evidence? Luke O’Donnell passed four times and JWH threw a no-look pass.
In all the Roosters completed just 29 of 41 sets (per SMH stats) at just a 71 per cent completion rate. A rate like that won’t work against Manly and Melbourne in the coming weeks, and North Queensland are good enough to capitalise at home when gifted the ball so easily. They also gave away eight penalties — I’m sure you’re shocked — and all of these teams in the next few weeks have weapons on the line that the Panthers simply dream of getting one day. Tariq Sims, Jamie Lyon, Ryan Hoffman and Anthony Watmough could kill this squad if they don’t show some more respect for the ball and don’t show more discipline in defence.
There is plenty of room for improvement in this team, and while they tend to aim up for the bigger occasions, on the off chance they don’t they could be on the end of a handy loss.
Stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):