Sydney Roosters 42 (B Cordner 2, D Tupou, J Friend, A Guerra, J Maloney, R Tuivasa-Sheck tries, J Maloney 7 goals) bt Penrith Panthers 6 (D Simmons try, L Walsh goal).
Crowd: 11,879 at Centrebet Stadium.
The Roosters started out with the rhythm of a rapper with Tourette’s but finished flowing like Charli 2na, turning a disappointing 12-6 half-time lead into a 42-6 laugher out at Penrith.
The club faced the shortest of turnarounds possible in the NRL, backing up from a Sunday afternoon game up the F4 to a Friday night bash up the M5, which may explain the slow start. The Panthers ultimately put up a better fight than we saw from the Sharks three weeks ago and actually broke the line thrice against the Roosters, but three tries went begging in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Roosters flicked the switch, awoke from their coma and put the struggling team out of its misery with five beautiful bullets after the break. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck nearly snapped poor Matt Moylan’s ankles with The Shtep, Boyd Cordner crossed for another double and James Maloney broke through like he was covered in KY jelly.
The Roosters are now first in attack and defence, dead last in penalties conceded and in forcing repeat sets, and are firming as favourites with every outing.
Oh, and they’re at the top of the table. But you probably already knew that.
South Sydney have lost two of three games without Greg Inglis; the Roosters have now won two from two without Sonny Bill Williams by an average score of 41-3.
They face a Canberra team next week which just got thumped by 64 points by the defending premiers Melbourne, knowing they’ve been below their best on two straight occasions yet have still managed to win by an average of 26 points despite themselves.
Man of the Match.
Mitchell Pearce won the Man of the Match award for Channel 9 and I can live with that, but James Maloney’s second half performance was as good as MP7’s total game in my humble opinion.
Take away the line breaks (four — not a misprint), the seven-for-seven conversion rate, the six tackle busts and his kicking game in the second half which returned to its best after a so-so first half.
More important, it was his passing game that really came to the fore and helped the Roosters dominate following an early conceded try. He threw a perfect cutout for Tupou’s try to get the team back to square one, before combining with MP7 in the second half to get the team rolling forward.
He organised his forwards well and threw a ball back against the grain for Guerra’s try. Those two passes — one inside ball, one cutout to the wing — had the defence guessing for the rest of the game. As evidence, if you watch the replay above for Maloney’s try he’s actually shaping to pass before hitting the gap.
He then found three more gaps off the back of that, setting up Boyd Cordner’s second try and putting on a show he hadn’t performed since well before Origin.
Mitch Pearce was right there with him, and a lot of the good things that happened in this game came off the choices he made — whether to hit a decoy (like in Cordner’s first try) or dropping it back for his five eighth.
The Matrix, Dodge, Shimmy-Shimmy Sheck.
Words can’t even describe what this kid is capable of anymore, so I’m not even going to try. I’ll let this do the talking:
We’ve been waiting for the moment when RTS made the switch to fullback — heck, we at 26 Rounds flat-out called for it earlier in the season. Well, Anthony Minichiello hyperextended his right leg earlier in the game attempting to dislodge the ball from Simmons over the line, and following the above bit of pure magic and with Mini’s need to rest, The Count and The Sheck switched spots and we got a glimpse of the future.
As @JohnnyTobin said on Twitter:
He didn’t break the line but such is his team-mates’ confidence in him back there that they repeatedly threw him the ball from the wing on kick returns, and he made the most of every run available.
Mini went off for good after 68 minutes and the Roosters have not said anything about the condition of his leg — but if he’s unable to play next week the Roosters are in more than capable hands with this freakish talent ready to go. He’ll come up against the brilliance of Anthony Milford next week and that, my friends, will be worth the price of admission alone, even if the Sheck happens to be on the wing for the clash.
Boyd Cordner. Exceptional.
Boyd has now scored eight tries in his past six matches, and the question now needs to be asked: is Cordner already better than Steve Menzies?
(This is me just saying something purely to upset Manly fans rather than actually believing it. Calm down, Manly.)
He’s taken the mantle of “best hole-running second rower in the game” from his team-mate, Mitch Aubusson. And while backrowers such as Sam Burgess and Sonny Bill are more dangerous physically, Cordner is doing things that are putting him in the pantheon of elite backrowers in the competition. He’s the yin on the left to SBW’s right-side yang, and the Roosters have scored nine times this year after his play-the-ball (George Burgess is miles ahead on this statistic).
He’s come out of Origin a far more confident player on the field. His footwork at the line is shining through and he’s scoring like he’s Wilt Chamberlain — on or off the field for Wilt, the analogy still works.
Moreover, he is starting to make the extra metre through the line and every touch is now quality. The dropsies he had at the start of the year are gone and he’s been their best forward in the past six weeks, Jake Friend excepted.
We shouldn’t forget that the Panthers almost scored three tries in the second half but for late fumbles over the line (Moylan, Simmons) and one before it (Josh Mansour) which would have made the game much closer than the final score showed.
They also lost the penalty count again, including giving away one in the Panthers’ first set which led to the game’s first try, and have now conceded more penalties than points in 10 matches this year.
That statistic could be interpreted as a positive or negative depending on which way you look at it, but giving a penalty away in their first set of defence following a week when penalties were at the top of the agenda was not a good omen for the club trying to fix the issue.
It’s the Achilles heel which isn’t being exploited yet, but like that mythical story, it only takes one shot to that heel for Achilles to go down. Whether that happens in the finals is the biggest question mark hanging over a team that is simply blowing teams off the park this year.
Which brings me to the next pertinent question: is the Roosters’ run home actually easy, or is the Roosters’ form making it look easy?
The face a semi-test next week at home versus a Raiders who they’ve already lost to this year and won that will be keen to bounce back from an annihilation in front of their own crowd, a Sharks team two weeks later that welcomes back Paul Gallen and has won its past two matches, and the Bunnies in the final round. They also play the Titans and Tigers during that span.
They could conceivably sweep their remaining games especially as the Bunnies may have some injury concerns. They’ve now won six straight and if they run the board they’ll head in to the finals series with an 11-game winning streak.
The common thinking is perhaps that a loss during those games prior to the Bunnies game would be a good thing, as maintaining a record like that only adds to the pressure, and you learn more in a loss to, say, the Sharks, than you do in a 42-6 win against the Panthers.
But when you don’t play your best and still win 42-6, missing your most dangerous player, perhaps its their form that is making that draw (sans the Bunnies game) look piss easy at this stage.
Match stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):