SYDNEY ROOSTERS 28 (M Jennings 2 Pearce 2 Mortimer 2 J Friend S Williams D Tupou tries, J Maloney 10 goals) bt WESTS TIGERS 14 (L Tuqiri J Tedesco C Sironen tries, B Marshall goal).
Crowd: 8,393 at Allianz Stadium.
The Roosters came out, scored within two minutes and then failed to give a shit for the next 37. There were so many dropped balls Sammy Burgess was tempted to cradle them, they passed late with much predictability and gave away penalties like they were five dollar bills at Pure Platinum.
Then the Roosters went into the sheds, came out, and everything was right with the world.
After 24 minutes in the second half, the Roosters had 12 sets completed from 12, with six converted tries.
That’s 36 points in 24 minutes. My God.
How much can be put down to the Tigers’ general ineptness is for anyone to guess (at least two tries can be put down to them: Jenko’s brilliant try which could’ve been batted away on any occasion, and Pearcey’s second off a Marshall special), but regardless, the Roosters ended up winning by 42 points and have all but ruled out the possibility of for and against deciding the minor premiership.
The biggest difference between the first and second halves was that the system returned. Individuals became cogs and players starting hitting holes, rather than everyone running to the line and passing late. There was greater depth, and we got a greater insight into how the Roosters can play when the passes stick, when the system is on and the energy level is up.
And something needs to be said for the half-time coaching of Trent Robinson. This is the third straight game the Roosters have started off a little slow and turned it on explosively in the second half.
Why they start out with such a distinct lack of intensity or let it slide as the first half progresses is anyone’s guess, but I can only imagine Robbo’s cool head and calm voice, like Morgan Freeman’s in Shawshank, is what any doctor would prescribe for rugby league first-half drowsiness.
Man of the Match.
I’m reticent to even give a man of the match in this one, as it was a complete team performance which pummelled the Tigers. If the game continued as it did in the first half, Sonny Bill Williams was a shoo-in after failing to get tackled on most occasions, scoring a great individual try and at least attempting to lift a lethargic team.
But with a gun to my head and having to pick out a star from a team effort, James Maloney has to get the lollies for the third straight game.
The five-eighth was given three days off by Roosters staff this week after he’d clearly struggled to mentally get over the Origin hangover.
Well, apparently celebrating Mitchell Pearce’s 150th game gets you back into a good headspace:
For the third straight second half he dominated in attack, with a line break, a line break assist and two try assist, and he kicked an amazing seven-for-seven from every conceivable angle on the field in the final 40. He controlled the game well, kicked accurately in general play and had the ball on a string following a so-so first half.
Just behind him were Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who contributed a try assist off a short ball from a scrum to Tupou and impressed with some dazzling plays at the back; Mitchell Pearce, who scored a double in the very game the BBQ was celebrating in the above image; and of course SBW, who offloaded at will in the first half and scored a try that only he could.
Samisoni Langi joined the club from the Bulldogs this season and almost played for the club last year in a mooted mid-season swap for Sam Perrett havinf already signed for 2013 and the winger wanting out. He’s been exceptional for the Holden Cup squad this year at five-eighth and was mooted as the replacement for James Maloney in the number six during Origin, ironically against the club he left, but was ruled out with a shoulder injury.
He’d have to wait.
The rumours began circulating roughly three hours before the game last night that Langi would make his long-yearned for debut in first grade, a fact confirmed an hour out from the match by the Roosters. The talented back was named in a late reshuffle in the centres and Roosters fans got an 80-minute glimpse — some would say long-overdue — of a very bright future for this kid.
The kid is built for first grade — he’s 6’1″ and 106 kilos — and runs as hard as anyone. We never really got a chance to see him stride out or use his great ball skills or kicking game in the centres, but my God the kid can make a metre with every run: seven runs for 70 metres with a tackle bust and some solid hits in defence. He missed three tackles, but who gives a shit.
His future is lock, without a doubt, and from there you will see him thrive as a playmaker and fourth-choice general play kicker.
This kid, with Dylan Napa, Kane Evans, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tautau Moga, Isaac Liu, Nene McDonald and a host of others will be the cornerstone of this club well into the 2020s.
And the Roosters, thanks to their lofty standing, can afford to trial these young kids against the also-rans of the NRL.
Luke O’Donnell. #NotHisGo
So Luke O’Donnell got into a scuffle with Keith Galloway, and five minutes later throws Tim Simona arse over apex in a near-spear tackle which may rule him out for a couple of weeks. He’s the most suspended player in NRL history and something like this has been due all year.
But the Roosters should challenge it, because the precedent has been set. Just use the #NotHisGo defence, start a Twitter campaign and you can get away with something as grotesque as cradling testicles and twisting ankles, serving nothing more than two weeks which amounts to community service. Heck, we’ve already started the campaign for you:
Better yet, get Roosters legends to speak to the Telegraph, and claim it’s the NRL’s fault because they got rid of the ol’ punch in the nose. Without that simple release of steam, O’Donnell had NO CHOICE but to cartwheel Simona into submission.
Luke O’Donnell will play next week. It’s #NotHisGo, after all. But whatever the judiciary does, they shouldn’t listen to @FireUponFBi:
The last word I’ll say on this incident apart from reporting on it on 26 Rounds is this, and as they say, a picture tells a thousand words:
This tackle on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck did not result in a suspension. In fact, it didn’t even result in Cooper Cronk heading to the judiciary. to answer a charge.
Luke O’Donnell flipped Simona because he’s built like a brick shithouse and could flip a burger 10 feet in the air with a fingernail. He did not drive Simona into the ground. Repeat: HE DID NOT DRIVE SIMONA INTO THE GROUND.
LOD’s judiciary history notwithstanding, based on consistency alone Luke O’Donnell has no case to answer.
There, I said it.
Where do we rate after this game?
The Storm are officially back to their wrestling, niggling, pedantic-to-a-tee best. The Rabbitohs — no matter what you think about the referees in the Manly game — have shown they can win with that superstar at the back. Manly could have won that game but for some dubious calls and a lopsided penalty count.
(Where was that ABC journalist — who said the Roosters and Sea Eagles actually benefit from conceding the most penalties — on Friday night? Huh?)
At this stage, on recent form, you’d put the Roosters just behind the Storm and the Rabbitohs, who really bounced back to their best last week — although rumour has it that Greg Inglis is out for the season.
The Roosters still lost the penalty count (11-7) and won by 42 points, which won’t help quell the ridiculous conspiracy theory that the Roosters are actually benefiting from the practice, but they needed to win this one big and they did.
That second half shows this team what they can do when they are focused and intense. The defence in recent weeks against lesser teams is a concern (three tries last night, four last week) but I don’t doubt in the bigger games, in the lead up, the Roosters will train their arses off to fix it. It starts this week when they play their last challenge — the Sharks — before the semis start a week early, in round 26 against the Bunnies.
It’s hard to accurately gauge where they’re at until then, but we can survive not knowing if there are more second halves like last night.
Match stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):