NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS 23 (Taylor Laumape Fisiiahi Vatuvei tries, Mateo 2 Johnson goals, Johnson field goal) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 12 (Minichiello Williams tries, Maloney 2 goals).
Crowd: 11,040 at Allianz Stadium.
Speed kills, and the Warriors showed an abundance of it for their fourth straight win. Our fastest player was gunned down by a halfback (left), The Fish flew for another and the only player chasing Manu Vatuvei for the nail in the coffin was Frank-Paul Nu’uasala.
When you combine playing a team that possesses breathtaking speed, with appalling refereeing — again — and an innate ability to bomb tries, there simply is no way the Roosters were going to win this one.
Even then, the Roosters could have been leading had Shaun Kenny-Dowall learned how to respect the ball and had the referees been semi-decent. But full credit needs to go to an in-form New Zealand squad that may have just figured out how to win on the back of some remarkable scrambling defence and speed the envy of most clubs in the NRL.
It’s officially a slump for the Roosters. They’ve lost two of three and their defence has looked positively Parramatta-esque, with more holes than this guy:
The Roosters need to forget this one and move onto next week — when they’ll play a near full-strength Bulldogs squad while missing three players to Origin and with one of their backups — Samisoni Langi — in doubt through injury.
Man of the Match.
For the Roosters at least, it was Sonny-Bill, whose first half was as good as it gets. His performance just shades a brilliant return game from Sam Moa and the best game from Frank-Paul since Roosters-Tigers in the corresponding round last year — June 17 to be precise. That’s 364 days between drinks for FPN.
But back to SBW. He was in everything in the first half and was the man most likely for the Roosters. He broke the line twice, scored once and threw some wonderful offloads to ignite an often stagnant attack.
He finally cracked the 100m mark for the first time in three games, and looked as good as he has all year. He was unable to get much going in the second half, save for starting the eventually-bombed SKD try with some quick hands out wide.
He returned to form at least, with 11 runs for 127 metres, two line breaks, a try, four offloads, 20 tackles, no penalties and no errors.
FPN was huge with 12 runs for 139 metres and a line-break assist, putting SBW through for one of many eventual bombed chances and at least trying to chase Vatuvei in desperation before the winger predictably won out. Why is this performance not the status quo for the talented forward?
More Moa. Please.
Sammy Moa proved in limited minutes off the bench just how important both he and JWH are to the effectiveness of this squad. They are simply a better team for having these guys in, and the team lifted with every one of his runs when he came on.
He had 10 runs for 117 metres, including that incredible line break and one “Fuck You I’m Sam Moa” sidestep i.e. running straight over the fullback to put the support over.
His ability to bend a team backwards has been sorely missed, and as valiantly as Luke O’Donnell has performed in his absence he just doesn’t strike fear into a defence the way the fearless Moa does.
He is error free and no-frills, and doesn’t give a shit about the damage he does to himself or the defence when he takes it up as everyone saw and heard in that brutal collision with Jacob Lillyman in the second half. He also has speed that no-one knew he had when he ran through of a flat start for that break. Where we’d be without him in this one is evidenced by the lack of punch the Chooks had when he has been out, and when he was off in this one. It was a brilliant effort in a return from injury for the Lawn Moa.
When offside isn’t offside.
The refereeing performances are so regularly poor in Roosters games it’s becoming boring and predictable, and the first half in this one was particularly pathetic: New Zealand were repeatedly offside, and it was blatantly obvious to anyone who wasn’t wearing a pink shirt.
One of the Warriors’ players just flat-out dropped it while tackled just prior to the Fisiiahi no-try, with the referees apparently not able to see what 11,000 people saw — the ball on the fucking ground, that is.
Mini is as un-vocal a captain as there is, and even he had to sprint in from fullback to ask the question on a number of occasions, including just after Aubo was tackled without the ball with a half-break begging. SBW was also taken out after putting a kick through off a charge down — no call again.
Shaun Johnson must’ve come close to being sin-binned for holding down Jenko for an extra couple of seconds, and I can only guestimate that if that was a Rooster he’d be half-way to an early Gatorade. Other teams are easily holding down that second longer in general tackles, while Roosters players never get the benefit of the doubt on loose carries from the opposing team. It’s always a strip, and that’s it. This is the norm, my friends, so we have to just lump it and hope the tide turns at some stage.
But whatever. The Roosters ultimately lost this through dumb errors, an inability to finish off chances and a few piss-poor performances from key personnel. The refereeing did not help one bit though.
We’ll talk about SKD’s try in a tick, but the Mini forward pass was just as bad. All he had to do was look right instead of left for an unmarked Pearce; all he had to do was zig right instead of zag left, back into a waiting defence.
The Roosters amazingly had three straight sets of six — this never, ever happens — but were unable to capitalise each time. Their fifth tackle options were poor at best, especially the set that led to the Vatuvei try.
Sometimes the Roosters lack runners for ball players, which is amazing when you consider the ball players they have. They are officially in a slump, perhaps partly due to Origin taking them out of their flow, perhaps due to their front row being out, but mostly it comes down to an inability to capitalise on every chance they create. The Roosters have bombed chance after chance this year — the Sheck breaks against the Dogs and Sea Eagles, two in this one, a few chances earlier in the year when Tupou wasn’t deep enough off Jenko, the list goes on.
The Chooks are equal tops in the league with the Rabbits on 60 line breaks, but have scored just 49 tries — tries which include burrowing efforts from front rowers such as O’Donnell, JWH and Kennedy.
The Rabbits have scored 52 times off their line breaks.
In this game they made five breaks and scored just twice. For a team this lethal across the park, scoring just 12 points in a match is unforgivable, and more than any other reason is why they lost this one.
SKD. A sympathetic figure.
Like everyone else at the game, this writer was not the least bit surprised by the Shaun Kenny-Dowall “bombed try for the ages”, when he broke through, stepped and became the victim of his own predictable loose carry when he had it stripped like a piece of skin off a Buffalo Bill victim.
And just like Buffalo Bill’s victims, SKD’s confidence and the fans’ trust in him is at the bottom of a well in a basement — consigned to its fate and unlikely to get out unless something drastic happens, like the Roosters working with Hannibal Lecter to analyse the psyche of the enigma in number four.
He has the opposite of the Midas Touch, whatever that is — everything he’s touching at the moment turns to crud even though you can see in this game he was trying his arse off to get back to basics: running direct, marking up in defence and playing steady. Those basics apparently don’t include holding the ball like it’s your baby rather than dangling it like a piñata for any fullback with a brain to whack.
He was terrible defensively last week and despite a strong first half when he ran direct and made easy metres, he effectively lost the game when he failed to win it. He just had to go wide or cradle it with the line begging but got fancy and paid the ultimate price. He also wasn’t given much to work with when MP7 threw him the ball poorly on the fifth tackle with six minutes to go, but the kick he put in was woeful and predictably went straight to Manu Vatuvei who raced away.
But strangely, rather than being angry (even though there was some boiling blood), this writer’s heart sank a little bit for SKD after that kick. You knew straight away that he’d get crucified on Twitter and in forums — and on 26 Rounds — and you can hardly blame that reaction from fans perplexed by his play in recent years. There’s rumours flying around that the club is looking to offload him — but ironically, thanks to his poor play, he’s becoming impossible to offload.
More than anything, this writer feels sorry for the kid. It’s an uphill battle into a strong breeze for him at present and he’s copping it from every corner. He’s only human and the barbs have to hurt. His confidence has to be at rock bottom right now and he needs a break from the pressure from the fans who are expecting more.
Move Mitch Aubusson to the centres, or recall Michael Oldfield, and give SKD the opportunity to rebuild his shattered mental state in the reserves. Because the Roosters cannot win with him playing the way he is at the moment — and the kid can’t take much more of the battering he’s getting right now.
Stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):