Melbourne Storm 26 (M Blair W Chambers J O’Neill C Smith tries, C Smith 5 goals) bt Sydney Roosters 18 (L O’Donnell, M Jennings, R Tuivasa-Sheck tries, J Maloney 3 goals).
Crowd: 19,164 at Allianz Stadium.
This was the Roosters’ biggest test and they failed, simple as that. They offered little in attack apart from repetitive bombing and failed forays down the left edge which were nullified by poor execution, fantastic defence and a performance from the referees that came with a free bowl of soup, soup so shitty it left the throats of every Roosters fan coarse and their voices as fucked as the result.
The better team won. And make no mistake: at this point, the defending premiers are the better team across the board. The Roosters have problems defending the left-side attacks of the top teams, with two more tries being scored down that side through misreads and miscommunication, while their kicking game was severely lacking near the line and 40 metres out.
Despite this, they came within a try and a goal of being equal. However, they aren’t equal just yet. And they won’t be until they show more respect for the ball and until the referees go back to school.
Hint: It’s not the NFL, and that silver thing in your mouth is a whistle, not a pacifier. You’re meant to blow it if the ball is propelled forward from anything other than a boot.
Man of the Match.
Luke O’Donnell was the best player on the field for the Roosters in far and away his best game since returning to the NRL at the start of this season.
It wasn’t just the try he scored when he bulldozed through two defenders to score under the posts. It was simply his aggression, go-forward and energy which in the past two weeks has been as good an imitation of what the suspended Jared Waerea-Hargreaves brings as you can get.
Against the Storm he ran it 12 times for 119 metres in 50 minutes with three tackle busts and 20 tackles without a miss. He repeatedly worked it out of the Roosters’ 40 with superb mid-tackle count hit ups and was in the opposition’s face all night — not as much as the Storm were up in the Roosters’ faces, but that had more to do with the apparently-revised 10 metre rule which is now more a recommendation than a hard-and-fast statute. But I digress.
His last two weeks have been first class as he has well and truly taken the reins as a makeshift front-rower in the Gallen mould as his career winds down. This writer was critical of his signing, but it’s scary to think where the Roosters would have been on Saturday if it weren’t for O’Donnell.
Some of the handling errors the Roosters made were abysmal. Frank-Paul, attempting a quick play the ball, just dropped it through his legs, while Sonny Bill had perhaps his worst outing with his handling as a Rooster — an outing which included a butterfinger pass straight to ground and a further two errors (which is not to discount the impact he had in other areas).
Meanwhile, Jennings dropped a sitter of a catch in goal which Cam Smith dived on before halftime, and was easily swatted away in defence by Will Chambers for another four-pointer in the second half.
You simply can’t gift Melbourne easy possessions like the Roosters did on Saturday, especially when faced with horrible decision-making by those in pink, as they showed four times how capable they are of making you pay with monotonous regularity.
The Roosters dropped it 12 times, in itself not a horrible number, but when you’re facing the Storm you have to play the ball properly. It’s that simple.
…And poor options on the fifth tackle.
On the occasions the Roosters got to their kick, they repeatedly put in poor ones or chose the wrong option.
The tactic against the Storm should never be to put it high and hope for the best, as both Maloney and Mitchell Pearce did to a fault — even considering the fact that Will Chambers and Sisa Waqa aren’t renowned as high-ball experts.
A simple kick and chase to force a repeat set would have sufficed on a number of occasions, but the Roosters have, for the past three years, look to force the error or go for the big play rather than apply pressure.
It wasn’t until the last five minutes that we saw what the Roosters can do with the ball in hand, not hoisting it to the heavens.
Hayne and Klein in a What The Fuck performance for the ages.
It’s also impossible for a team to win when the opposition is playing to an eight-metre rule, can throw passes forward like they’re fucking Tom Brady and can bounce the ball in front of them like they’re LeBron Fucking James.
This writer made the observation last week of a particular penalty called against the Roosters in the Cowboys game:
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.
Refereeing that game was Ashley Klein. Ashley Klein was also in attendance for the Storm match, and must’ve witnessed (I can only assume he was watching the game) a carbon copy of that play in which Michael Jennings was tackled but got up to skirt off, only to be tackled over the top by another Storm defender.
No “flop” tackle was called. And not only that, the Storm defenders held him down an extra few seconds than were necessary, but again, NO PENALTY WAS CALLED.
This is the refereeing equivalent of a bouncer not letting you into the club because you’re wearing Nikes, but lets the guy wearing Dunlop Volleys and a Cotton On shirt behind you in, and waives the cover charge for good measure.
The first half was perhaps the worst refereed game of the season. Forward pass upon forward pass were not called, and the Storm defence was only forced to retreat nine metres at best on most occasions even though the referee was clearly a metre behind the closest defender in the line.
Meanwhile, in the second half the Roosters were called for a forward pass off a flat ball from Sonny Bill to SKD — which would be fine had it not been for the plethora of forward passes in the first half from the opposition.
The second half did even up, the referees perhaps influenced by the longest consistent boo heard at Allianz, maybe ever but certainly in two years (the last refereeing performance this bad was a game against Cronulla towards the end of 2011 when Paul Gallen was awarded a try from a knock on into his own player when then-captain Braith Anasta told the referee “Now I’ve seen everything”).
This boo lasted a good minute or two — it would have been awesome but for the fact it should have been completely unnecessary. It followed an apparent knock on by Billy Slater, who has a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card on these plays due to the perception he never knocks it on.
Everyone is under the impression the refereeing standard has improved as video refereeing is no longer the clusterfuck it was in 2012. In reality, that improvement in the video box is a smokescreen for a general ineptitude in the refereeing ranks which has only gotten worse with the retirements of Tony Archer and others in the past decade.
We can’t even blame inexperience, as both Klein and Shayne Hayne — who’s taken that Hollywood moniker from Bill Harrigan and owned it — have been around for years.
Some penalties were worthy, especially in the second half, but the vast majority were downright egregious. And how you miss a knock on when it is your job to spot fucking knock ons is beyond this writer and the 19K-plus crowd at Allianz on Saturday.
Another thing: when someone gets spear-tackled it should be an instant “on report” call. You don’t call a penalty and walk away, only to be stopped halfway by the video referee to tell you it was report-worthy:
ITS A FUCKING SPEAR TACKLE! IF THAT WAS JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES HE’D BE HALFWAY TO THE DRESSING SHEDS!
Every fan who attended that game felt like Mugatu in Zoolander:
While the Roosters probably wouldn’t have won after conceding three soft tries and one from a spill, it certainly didn’t help when the referees called the game one way, forgot that the 10-metre rule means you retreat 10 metres from the ruck and the defence must be lined up with you, and that a ball travelling forward — either from being dropped or being passed — is generally a bad thing and needs to be whistled.
Poor refereeing in these games is becoming repetitive and just flat out boring. It’s boring to write, as I’m sure it is boring to read. Oh well. At least we’ll have two week’s respite now.
Stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):