Sydney Roosters 12 (A Minichiello, M Aubusson tries, J Maloney 2 goals) bt North Queensland Cowboys 8 (R Lui try, J Thurston 2 goals).
Crowd: 13,666 at 1300SMILES Stadium.
This writer predicted this would be one of the few losses the Roosters would experience this season. Down two props with a short turnaround away from home in muggy conditions against a team that needed to win, this writer’s instinct was to write this game off before it began, with a view to a win against the reigning premiers next week.
This writer has never been happier that his instinct was so wrong.
Somehow they ground out a win in the face of horrible weather, diabolical handling and devilish refereeing to record their fifth win in a row in North Queensland on the back of a superb halfback’s performance and a defensive effort that arguably topped last week’s epic win against the Sea Eagles.
The Roosters could’ve squeezed fresh milk from a cow and the referees would’ve called it off, in a game in which the penalty count was as lopsided as a Tara Reid boob job:
Meanwhile, you could have stapled the ball to their hands and wrapped it in duct tape and the Roosters would’ve found a way to drop it, but like a flasher at a mall the Roosters somehow found a way to pull it out.
Man of the Match.
Mitchell Pearce. By far.
MP7 threw two of the best passes of the year which resulted in the Roosters’ two tries. The first was a beautiful play which he doesn’t get enough credit for, when he faked to a charging Sonny Bill Williams before laying it off five metres back with a perfect pop pass to Minichiello who had a direct angled run to the line.
The second was a pass which commentator Warren Smith later described as “delicious”. He cut out Boyd Cordner 10 metres out to find Mitch Aubusson running a line that would make a coke addict twitchy for the match-winning try.
Once you throw in his defence — AGAIN — and this was MP7’s best game of the year, topping his performance last week. He ran it only twice but had two tackle busts, two try assists, two clean line break assists, and seven kicks for 236 metres while finding grass with nearly every kick including a deft grubber for a repeat set in the first half.
In defence he had to deal with Tariq Sims and couldn’t have done a better job. He had five misses, but none critical, and completed 25.
He also gave away three penalties, two in the final minute. But we’ll get to that later — because this refereeing performance was nothing more than bullshit and deserves its own segment.
Just behind Mitch was Minichiello, who made half gap after half gap and scored a try; Aubusson, who made 37 tackles and questioned the line constantly in the first 20 minutes; and Sonny Bill Williams. You may have thought SBW was quiet but his statistics shouted something different: 32 tackles, 19 hit-ups, 176 metres, three offloads and two tackle busts.
And special mention needs to be made of Shaun Kenny-Dowall. The Cowboys continually targeted his side of the field, and for good reason: The majority of the tries conceded by the Roosters this season have come down that flank. But following perhaps his worst game with his hands against the Sea Eagles, SKD had perhaps his best defensive effort in first grade. He made 13 tackles, with three misses but none crucial, while continually cutting down former teammate Kane Linnett at the ankles, including with three one-on-one tackles. It was a great bounce-back effort from a player who has trained hard on improving his defence this season.
There are only a handful of players who can break the line without running a line i.e. with absolutely nothing on: Billy Slater, Ben Barba, Michael Jennings, Akuila Uate, Greg Inglis and Roger Tuivasa-Motherfuckin-Sheck.
Twice in two games now he’s broken the line through displays of scintillating footwork, deceptive upper body strength and purer speed than you’ll find in the Cross at 3:30am.
He nullified what could have been a perfect kick-and-chase from the game’s pre-eminent superstar, Jonathan Thurston, with a Benji step and exhilarating speed off the mark from inside his own in-goal before racing away for a break past three defenders.
Somehow they bombed the try, and Roger needs to back himself on this play. He needs to take on the likes of the Matt Bowens of the world rather than passing flat to Sonny Bill. We all know he can do it.
Regardless, we’ve had two weeks with two exemplary displays of footwork and speed. And this writer isn’t ashamed to say he got wood from that run. Heck, he was almost like Seal during a “special” performance on The Voice (watch his left arm):
Lama freed at last… for 19 minutes.
In his first bit of contact in the NRL this season, Lama Tasi combined with Daniel Mortimer, who went low, to level Dallas Johnson with a hit you could hear through the referee’s mike in that briefest of moments when the ref wasn’t blowing the whistle for a penalty against the Roosters.
In limited game time, Tasi ran it five times for 39 metres with 14 tackles. Up his minutes to 38 minutes and you can effectively call him a strike weapon but Trent Robinson elected to give the majority of the time to Luke O’Donnell (52 minutes, 15 runs, 128m) and Martin Kennedy (13 runs, 91 metres, 32 tackles, two errors). On a pre-minute basis, Tasi outpointed both starters and probably warranted a few extra minutes.
The Roosters clearly lacked go-forward in this one, and while O’Donnell did his best to add some mongrel by throwing a forehead at James Tamou’s chin early in the contest, they could have used an extra few minutes from LT especially when you consider Kennedy’s quiet outing.
It was a good first hit-out for the 26 Rounds favourite, and he’ll have another four weeks to show the Roosters’ training staff — or the recruitment bosses of another club — why he’s worthy of a new contract.
The best defence in the competition forced to win it.
The Roosters defended for an extra 10 sets and made an extra 65 tackles. The Cowboys ran for an extra 265 metres and dominated the possession 54-46. The Cowboys made four line breaks to three.
But the Roosters scored two tries to one in the win. How is this possible?
While it seems the Roosters are making a habit of winning despite themselves, they’re actually 3-2 when losing the possession count, and 5-0 when they win it. So while they have proven they can win with their defence, it’s clear that holding the ball is the easiest way for this team to get the two points. We look at this game, the Manly game and the Broncos game as evidence that we are bucking the idea that to win you need to hold the ball, but we were swamped by the Rabbitohs and Raiders.
When it gets to finals time, these error counts are going to cost them but thankfully the club has 14 more games to get it right.
Two straight horrible weeks from the referees.
The Roosters did a lot of things wrong in this game.
They gave Thurston too much room on kicks which enabled repeat sets over and over — and over — again. They dropped the rock more times than a jeweller with Parkinson’s — 13 errors in all — and completed just 25 of 35 sets. But the Cows actually dropped it more in horrendous conditions with 15 total errors.
But also contributing to an incredible 54-46 possession ratio in favour of the Cowboys was an inept display from the two men in the middle.
Fresh from sending off Jared Waerea-Hargreaves for a front-on hit gone wrong last week, those crazy cats in pink were at it again this week: and ladies, they’re single! (Probably.)
This writer isn’t one for bagging referees even if the count is lopsided, as most of the time it’s lopsided for a reason. But the Roosters lost this count 9-3, with many of those calls a 50-50 and the remainder a fair dinkum gee-up.
Epitomising the ineptitude was a penalty late in which Matt Bowen was tackled but regained his feet and was looking to run it again. Jake Friend — who made a prodigious 52 tackles with no misses in 63 minutes — came over the top to complete a tackle. The referees called it a flop claiming the player was held despite the fact that a) the player was Matt Bowen and can worm out of tackles like O.J. out of a murder charge, and b) these tackles happen EVERY SINGLE GAME.
Following this, the Cows were given two penalties in the final 30 seconds of play — seriously, you can’t make this shit up — and almost won the game after the siren but for a knock-on.
On the other end, the Cows gave away just three penalties despite repeatedly crowding the ruck, slowing the game down and niggling in tackles. You know the referees are bad when this writer was throwing Pure Blondes at the new TV, and if it weren’t for the fact he has terrible aim he’d be asking for the NRL to compensate him.
Two straight putrid performances from the referees, and two wins for the Roosters. Can you imagine what would happen if the Roosters ever got a decent performance by the men in the middle?
Stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):