Sydney Roosters 18 (Jennings 2, Tuivasa-Sheck, Friend tries, Cordner goal) bt Manly Sea Eagles 12 (Lyon, Rose tries, Lyon 2 goals).
Crowd: 16,246 at Allianz Stadium.
If you had told this writer at the start of the season that the Roosters would be down 57-43 in the possession count in the first half against the Sea Eagles, had to defend EIGHT straight sets of six, miss four of five goals, make 12 errors to eight, bomb a try, have Mortimer and The Sheck taken off with concussion when we’re already missing two starters and four backups, and have Jared Waerea-Hargreaves slap a guy in the face, I would’ve declared this game a 50-0 loss before strapping the gag ball in my own mouth and handing you the whip.
If you’d also told me the Roosters would have the highest crowd number of the round in the same match, I would’ve waived the requirement for a safe word and let you have your way with me.
But instead, in the face of all things logical, the Roosters somehow scored four tries to two and beat Manly for the second time in a season, the first time this has happened since 2003 and only the second time in 30 years in front of a round-high crowd of 16,246.
Typifying the evening, the most incredible and unlikely of plays occurred in the second half: JWH tackled a player, got up and slapped the guy in the face while he was still on the ground. Brent Kite came over the top and pushed him, and the Roosters were AWARDED THE PENALTY.
This is the first time the Roosters have been the recipient of a 50-50 call all season.
It’s the equivalent of Dick Cheney, VP of the US in the Bush years, shooting a guy in the face, only if Cheney got away with it.
(Editor: Cheney did get away with it.)
(Jake: Wait, what?)
(Ed: yeah, Cheney totally didn’t get charged or anything. The guy who got shot in the face actually apologised to Cheney.)
(J: Wow. Was the guy who got shot and apologised for it an NRL referee by any chance?)
(J: Makes total sense now.)
(Ed: By the way, replays revealed it was a slap to the shoulder.)
(J: Dude, the review has already been written.)
Man of the Match.
Jared Waerea-mutherfuckin’-Hargreaves played like a man who hadn’t played in the past five games. He was possessed.
He nearly scored a try, was enormous in defence and led the resurgence of a team that let in its lowest point total in the past month He also got away with something for a change: a blatant slap to the face/shoulder of a guy laying defenceless on the ground (Ed: IT WAS THE SHOULDER!!). But it’s about time the referees gave the big fella a break; after all, it was the same referee in this game who sent him off the last time the Roosters played the Sea Eagles.
JWH had 21 massive hitups for 180 metres with an offload, 26 tackles and not a single miss or penalty. He hit the ball up exactly when the Roosters needed a big run, and took it straight back at the Sea Eagles forwards after the slapping/pushing incident without a worry in the world.
The Roosters are simply a better defensive squad with the game’s best front-rower out there. If anyone doubts the legitimacy of JWH being the game’s top prop, I ask you this: name a better prop in the game based on form this season.
You couldn’t, could you?
He just shaded another superb attacking performance from Sonny Bill Williams, who again started at five-eighth and was involved in three of the Roosters’ four tries — and almost set up another following a line break off a beautiful ball from Mitchell Pearce before Jenko failed to take the final pass.
Also huge in this one were Boyd Cordner, who despite the missed goals had a blinder by repeatedly made the right run and tackling his butt off; and Jake Friend, who scored an exceptional solo try off lazy marker defence and led the game with 50 tackles.
The injuries continue to mount, as does the effort.
Daniel Mortimer was walked off the field after his noggin was sandwiched between the heads of two Manly forwards; RTS went off just after halftime following a sickening head clash with James Hasson, who was consequently sent to hospital with bleeding on the eye.
The Roosters went into this game having lost Marty Kennedy, James Maloney, Kane Evans and Tautau Moga to injury, and Lama Tasi to the Broncos. Jenko was also hobbled late in the game with an ankle injury for fuck’s sake.
They ended this game with just 15 men and no discernible goal kicker — even Pearce had a stab at it and shanked a kick from a 45 degree angle.
This writer hates using the words “courageous victory” especially when the talent level in this squad is at a level only rivalled by the teams directly above and now below them on the ladder — but this was the definition of a courageous victory. They played the second-best defensive team in the competition without a recognised five-eighth and crossed the line twice in the second half despite being down two substitutes and following a half when Manly had seven consecutive sets of six on their line.
The first half was simply an amazing defensive performance, in a season which is becoming full of these definitive, clinical efforts. Whether RTS and Morts are able to play in just five days against the Dragons following concussions remains to be seen, as it will for Maloney just 10 days after fracturing bones in his cheek. But one cannot doubt the commitment this team has to the defence, especially with its defensive leader back from suspension.
Sonny Bill is a legit “five-eighth” now.
Trent Robinson elected to run with SBW at five-eighth for the second straight game. And his performance more than justified the selection.
He had a line break, a try assist and a hand in two other tries in another dominant display at second receiver, and Robinson now has a blueprint for how the Roosters must play for the remainder of the season. Mitchell Pearce will play first off the ruck on the right side, James Maloney will play first off the ruck on the left. SBW will play second receiver on either side — depending on where the opportunities lie. This is how it must be.
SBW simply makes those players around him infinitely better. Jenko scored two tries thanks to the service inside from SBW, while the big fella can throw a cutout to RTS that would make Freddy jealous.
He’s one of those rare players who has returned from rugby union a superior player. His passing game is among the best in the competition, and that includes among any halfback in the league. Add in his ability to break the line by himself or off a pass, or create a break with an offload or perfectly timed pass, and we are looking at the complete attacking package.
He’s not a second-rower, or at least he shouldn’t be limited by such a label. He’s not a five-eighth either, and he’s not even a lock with free rein. He’s just a superstar who makes shit happen with every touch — unless he’s trying to float a pass over the top to Jennings (but lets not talk about that one).
On the verge of something semi-historic.
The Roosters are now outright second in the competition, albeit four points behind the Rabbits with both teams still owed a bye each.
We are just three months away from a potential Roosters-Rabbitohs Grand Final. These teams have not played each other in a finals game since 1938; they haven’t played each other in a GRAND FINAL since 1931 (won 12-7 by Souths).
Considering the vaunted rivalry and the genuine hatred between the fans, the fact they haven’t played a meaningful finals match against each other since 1938 is an incredible statistic.
Seriously, go outside, skip some rocks across a pond, sit, and reflect on that for a moment. We are on the verge of witnessing the game’s two oldest foundation clubs — one of the most hate-filled rivalries in all of world sport, mind you — play each other in a finals match for the first time in 74 years.
Book your tickets now.
Match stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):