Cronulla 32 (Gallen, Gordon, Wright, Heighington tries, Carney eight goals) bt Roosters 22 (Tupou 2, Jennings, Mortimer tries; Maloney 3 goals).
Crowd: who gives a shit at Remondis Stadium.
Was this the loss we were meant to have? Definitely.
For four straight weeks including this one, the Roosters came out unfocused and severely undisciplined. Their key players were too focused on attacking a winger and in the meantime let in 26 unanswered points and gave away penalties like they were old flannels to St Vinnies.
They got some lucky bounces and capitalised (Graham off the shoulder, a strip for Heighington) while the Roosters were waiting for a turning point in the first half that never came. They weren’t helped along the way — far from it — by another abysmal refereeing performance that watched a scrum whereby Gallen lashed out with a punch in a scrum and DID NOTHING.
I default to my consistent position: What if that was Jared Waerea-Hargreaves? Or, heaven forbid, Luke O’Donnell?
And I default further to my position usually reserved for refereeing performances like this: more on them later.
Man of the Match.
Toughie: on one hand, Sonny Bill did everything possible to lift his team in the second half, but on the other hand was too focused on individual battles to make any dent in the first.
But despite a shaky first half, a second half performance from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck gets him the goods.
He provided the lone highlight for the Roosters in this one when he left Carney looking like a drunk grasping at an invisible woman in the corner with a Shtep that had any doubter knowing this kid is a God-given freak: a mutant who can teleport from one spot to another like Nightcrawler:
(For what it’s worth, I don’t think there is a better movie analogy for what RTS can do. He’s now the Nightcrawler on these pages from now until he objects to being called an elf-like mutant.)
He nearly scored another but for an iffy decision from the referees which MP7 rightly questioned with “where was he (Tupou) meant to go?” (Don’t get me started, Rabbits — Gus Gould Voice) and returned the ball with strength and speed. He was a danger whenever he got the ball in the final 40 and cleaned up his lax positional play from the first half.
He ran it 14 times for 149 metres with seven tackle busts, a line break and a try assist, and a .gif on that Shtep is coming in the player rankings this week as sure as the sun rises.
Give this kid a year or two of full play at the back and we are looking at a guy who will destroy the Aussies for the Kiwis for the next decade.
But I hope this game reminds us all of how good Mini is: it’s easy to forget about positional play and safety under the high-ball, but Mini is among the best at both. It’s no coincidence we’ve struggled the past three games he’s been out, and I hope those who question him (and don’t worry, I’m including myself) realise what the Italian Jesus brings to the table, rather than focusing on what he takes off it.
Another refereeing cluster-eff-bomb.
So Gallen throws a punch in the scrum. No penalty. OK, maybe they missed it, even if the video referee saw it. Let’s let that one go, shall we?
But let’s not let the following go, because they were fucked.
Ben Pomeroy gets tackled 40 metres out from their own line, and drops the ball in a three-man tackle. The referees call a strip, despite there being NO ASCERTAINABLE WAY anyone could have seen it was a strip. Replays were at best inconclusive.
In the second half, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was picked up, driven sideways and dropped the ball as a result. It was initially ruled a Roosters scrum feed, which in itself was fucking absurd because there was no Cronulla hand in it. So the video referee checks it twice, and rules — despite the driving nature of the tackle which resulted in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck being lifted beyond the parallel — that he’d knocked on. Scrum feed, Sharks.
It’s as predictable as death and taxes that the Roosters will not get the 50-50 calls, let alone the 60-40s or the 70-30s.
But when a strip is not clearly visible — and there was NO WAY the referees could have seen it because it just didn’t happen — then something is amiss. You know what it is when a non-strip is called a strip on suspicion? An educated guess. And an educated guess in this game means that the referees decided “the Roosters have a history of giving away penalties, so it must have been stripped”.
I wrote this on Facebook on Friday, and the sentiment stands:
The great season by the Roosters aside, this has been a terrible year for the NRL. Grub tactics, over-penalisation, ASADA, salary caps and their 2nd-tier equivalents, the punching edict, off-field antics again — if it weren’t for the Roosters I’d be totally disengaged. The NRL has a lot to clean up for 2014.
Notice the second point? Yessir, over-penalisation. There were 21 penalties blown in this game. The Roosters actually won the penalty count in this one 11-10, but the stat is deceptive: Cronulla gave away four straight penalties in the second half, including one when Issac De Gois was lying on the tackled player and staring at the referee, literally begging to be penalised.
(Where’s that dude claiming that giving away penalties assists the Roosters now that Cronulla clearly used the bizarre tactic?)
The punching edict is in that rant too, yet nothing happened when prospective pugilist Paul Gallen threw one at Frank-Paul Nu’uasala.
JWH got pinged on suspicion of a late tackle, when even in slo-mo he hit him barely late, right in front. And it’s telling that in a game where both sides scored four tries, the Cronulla side kicked four penalties from in front to seal it.
Now, were some of the penalties justified? Of course! SBW gave away a cheap shoulder charge and JWH followed up up with a weaker version that could have gone either way.
But some of the decisions were out of the school of Sarah Palin: based on preconceived bias and concocted in a pot of bullshit with a dash of incompetence and a hint of out-of-his-depthness.
And by the way, where was Tupou meant to go in the RTS no-try, huh? HUH? And why was a penalty called for Cronulla when their winger knocked it on first????
And what about the Todd Carney grubber at the line that of course bounced of a Roosters leg and they called six again despite there being no way the Roosters played at it?
Whatever. I will end this paragraph with this: despite losing the possession 52-48, the Roosters made 11 more metres than the Sharks, meaning they didn’t lose this because their forwards didn’t stand up.
I’m just gonna leave that booger hangin’ out there for everyone to look at with disgust.
But refs aren’t (totally) to blame for this one, nor is Pearce.
We did give away some silly penalties in this game. The shoulder charge on a winger, the laying down on the same guy and the Sharks tactic to perfectly exploit a rookie in just his second game worked a treat. We had a one-on-one strip and some fundamental errors from trying to do too much, all in the first half.
We were down 26-0 at half time for a reason; we were out enthused, and as @JohnnyTobin said following the game:
They sure did. They were in the Roosters’ face all night, eptiomised when RTS did not get the penalty for head-butting the ground, and Carney slapped the ball angrily and with a smart arse laugh immediately after the call was reversed.
What we cannot blame it on is the play of the halves, who were solid in this one. Which brings me to this tweet from former Roosters coach Brian Smith at half-time:
I followed up with a tweet I deleted in cowardice/respect for a former first grade coach, but that I’ll repeat here which basically said: “gee, if only he’d been coached”. Smithy replied with:
Read into that whatever you want: I tweeted back “perhaps attitude reflects leadership” making my stance known. But regardless it’s highly unfair to put a halfback’s performance into how his team responds in a game 26-0 down at halftime. Smith, a coach who left this club on bad terms and left on even worse terms with Pearce, has been unbelievably harsh in setting up Pearce for a fall here, a fall no halfback outside Joey could recover from.
Based on this tweet, MP7 failed. Yet the tweet sucks.
In this writer’s opinion, Mitchell stuck to his guns and worked the plays that he knows works, they just didn’t in this one. And he trusted a coach who has proven in 22 games his coaching works.
Pearce, I am convinced, is now the future captain of the Roosters. He gets in the referee’s face Ennis-style and questions the wrong decisions without going overboard. Defensively he stood up in this one with 23 tackles and pulled down Andrew Fifita and Gallen all night.
If people want to judge a 24-year-old halfback by whether he can lead a team down 26-0 at halftime to victory, then be my guest. All I will say is this: the Roosters scored as many tries as the Sharks, only losing by two points if you take out the gimmes in front of the posts.
Who woulda thunk that penalty conversions would lose the Roosters a tight game, besides every single Roosters fan?
The loss we had to have?
I think it’s fair to say now that the Roosters know what they need to fix if they are to contend this year: first halves, and penalties in their own halves. Some of their penalties where downright adolescent and their first half is nothing different from what we’ve seen in the past month.
To wit, the Roosters in the first halves of the past four games, including this one, have scored 42 points and conceded 48. In the second half? They’ve conceded just 26 points and scored a whopping 106.
They need to fix up that first half, pronto. They come out with no energy and finish in a blaze, and that needs to reverse.
But this might be the loss they needed to have. It seemed the players were perhaps getting ahead of themselves and were playing down to the opposition, believing the talent would win alone. But that attitude won’t cut it against a rejuvenated Souths and on-fire clubs Manly and Melbourne. Heck, it didn’t cut it against Cronulla.
The longest winning streaks including winning the Grand Final were by Manly (1972) and Souths (1955), who both won the Grand Final with 11-game streaks. Not to lose again would have meant the Roosters would attempt to break a record that has stood for more than 40 years, a record in the modern age that is nigh-on impossible to replicate.
Yes, this is the loss we had to have. I just wish it wasn’t so emphatic.
Match stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):