REVIEW: Titans 30, Roosters 22. This is a slump, but at totally the wrong time.

GOLD COAST 30 (A Don B Falloon S Michaels B Takairangi D Taylor tries A Sezer 5 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 22 (M Aubusson S Moa M Pearce D Tupou tries J Maloney 3 goals).

Crowd: 17,542 at Allianz Stadium.

Game Summary.

If the loss against the Sharks was the loss we had to have, this writer has no fucking idea what the hell this loss was for.

We just witnessed the second straight underwhelming game — one which was more disappointing than last week due to a lack of composure when they needed it, combined with the fifth straight week of poor second halves and the second straight underwhelming week from a star who is far better than he’s shown recently.

They don’t even have the luxury of blaming the referees who admittedly were poor again but were hardly the difference in this one. The difference was one team started out with toughness and composure, gave a shit and kept their season alive; the other played like they’d play for the minor premiership next week, win or loss, and hadn’t learned from the first-half ambush last week.

The other difference is that one team hit form while the other will potentially head into the finals on a three-game losing streak to face a bunch of teams who happen to be well and truly in form.

The Roosters are desperately out of form, a fact masked recently by an eight-game winning streak of which only a few were definitively against decent opposition (depending on your definition of decent). They’ve now lost two straight which is probably more indicative of how they’ve played in the past month and a half.

If anyone thinks we’re beating Souths, Melbourne or Manly — or even the North Queensland Cowboys — on this form, they are mistaken. This team tried today but nothing came off. The refs weren’t to blame and the Titans were the far better squad for the first and last 20 minutes of the game.

And the Roosters now have some homework to do.

Man of the Match.

In a disappointing game it’s hard to split the weak from the chaff. But two players stood out for the Roosters like a melanoma in Ireland.

Source: The Roar.

Mini haters will look at Anthony Don’s try and think “Mini had to run at an angle to tackle a winger and didn’t get there, therefore Mini had a shit one”. Well, when you pit a 33-year-old against a 25-year-old, that shit tends to happen.

Those people will blame Mini even though he didn’t miss the initial tackle. And the reason he is co-man of the match in this writer’s eyes is because he didn’t miss much else.

Positionally he was perfect, under the high ball in defence he was sublime and his running game was as on song as possible. He recovered kicks like we expected and diffused what came his way, which is what we needed.

I’ve never felt more trusting of a player if a kick comes his way as I have when it heads towards Mini this season; in the second half of the year those grubbers into the in-goal which once bamboozled the surgery-repaired fullback have not been an issue at all and under bombs he’s as safe as they come.

To blame him for the dropped ball with a minute to go is to let SBW off the hook for a poor pass aimed at the ankles. Many people may disagree, and that’s their prerogative. But in a game with plenty — repeat, PLENTY — of faults, Mini was the player with the least.

Sharing the man of the match with Mini was Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who was an absolute monster in this one with 17 hitups, 145 metres and 47 tackles. This is the return to form we’d been hoping for from one of the game’s best front-rowers — it’s just a shame it culminated with the Roosters’ worst team performance this year.

SBW: two below par in a row.

Source: Daily Telegraph.

I love this guy. He is a supreme athlete with athletic gifts mere mortals only hope to possess in a video game if they’re lucky. But in three of his past four halves he’s been well below his best.

Against Cronulla he had four penalties in the first half alone, and the Sharks put 26 unanswered points on the Roosters in that 40. Against the Titans he threw some offloads, threw early passes that weren’t on and generally struggled to make the impact we’re used to.

He had five errors — FIVE — and a bizarre chip at the line with no chasers in the first half. He had a try assist went he sent Moa over and ran the ball hard, but the five errors more than offset the overall picture which included six offloads and  17 runs for 144 metres. He tried his arse off but the execution was well below the SBW we saw from rounds four to 16, and the past two weeks he’s looked off despite the effort levels — especially in the second halves — being at their optimum.

This is the reason why I’m worried whether the Roosters can win the competition. We have Mitch Pearce who can play a structured play with the best of them but when that play isn’t on they struggle; they have Jimmy Maloney who can run and pass, but when the gaps aren’t there and the players are marked his impact is nullified (plus he missed seven tackles against the Titans); and we have a decent forward pack but they will be outweighed by the Storm and the Bunnies come finals time.

What sets this team apart from the rest is the x-factors. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck can sidestep bullets but he’s still young and not consistent enough yet to be considered a reliable threat; Jenko is dangerous but sometimes he won’t touch the ball more than 10 times in a match; and Jake Friend needs the offloads from JWH and co if he is to be at his dynamic best.

Sonny Bill is the most consistent x-factor in this team, but if the grind has gotten to him and the plays just aren’t there despite all his noticeable effort , then the Roosters might struggle against not only the remainder of the top four, but teams such as Cronulla, North Queensland and the Warriors.

Eighty minutes a game is a lot to ask of a second rower, even one as naturally gifted, mentally strong and physically imposing as Sonny Bill Williams. Perahps Robbo needs to find 20 minutes a game where he can afford to rest his best chance at winning a premiership this season.

Are the Roosters in a slump?

Source: Fox Sports.

Source: Fox Sports.

You may look at the two straight losses and think that the Roosters can easily snap out of it. After all, it’s just been two games, right?

Wrong.

The Chooks have had five straight weeks with first halves well below par, and three straight first halves filled with late, panicked passing at the line and a general apathy to open the match.

But what concerns this writer is that opposing teams may have finally clicked onto the Roosters’ strengths. The problem with performing to a system is eventually that system can be figured out, and teams may have now figured out how to nullify the Roosters’ left-side attack somewhat.

In two straight performances, the Sharks and now the Titans have repeatedly given away penalties to slow the momentum at the line, especially when that left side attack is lining up. Isaac de Gois was deliberately lying on the tackled player and practically begging the referee to call a penalty last week, while the Titans gave away four straight penalties in the first half to quell the flow of a momentous attack on the line — and the referee actually called Nate Myles out to warn against the repeated infringements.

But more indicative of the opposition figuring it all out: in the second half the Roosters ran the left side play and Maloney threw a cutout to what would have been an unmarked Daniel Tupou but the pass was tapped away by the Titans before it had a chance to hit Daniel-san’s hands.

This is what worries this writer. With Boyd Cordner out the attack has become far more predictable as it’s increasingly likely that Pearce will dump back to Maloney for the three-on-two play. It’s the right decision if the Roosters insist on running that play, but teams now know it’s coming.

The Roosters need to find another way through, because at the moment they can’t trust their defence enough that they can afford to hammer away at one end.

Can we still win the competition?

We need to beat the Rabbitohs next week to have any chance of winning the premiership. Many a team has entered the finals having lost their last game, sure (most memorably the Broncos in 2000 after the Roosters shut them out 26-0) but a three-game losing streak heading into a clash against the in-form top-four sides is not a good place to be in mentally.

It’s beginning to remind this writer of 2008 when the Roosters finished in the top four but bowed out in straight sets once their attack became predictable and their defence became porous.

This team on paper is far better than that which lined up in 2008 — and many would argue this is the most talented team across the park the Roosters have ever fielded.

But if you were to take the last six weeks as evidence of form, then the Roosters are sorely lacking and the comparison to the 2008 squad becomes more compelling — chips to the wing, one dangerous play and the recruitment of a former Bulldog who scored two tries against his former club.

The good news is that you only need 80 minutes to re-announce yourselves as a premiership contender. Just ask Manly after Saturday night. And getting back to that form starts this Friday against the Rabbitohs in the battle for the minor premiership.

Match stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):

stats attack defence

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10 responses to “REVIEW: Titans 30, Roosters 22. This is a slump, but at totally the wrong time.

  1. Look at Jake Friend’s stat’s with just 4 runs for 31m and try to make an argument that he didn’t do enough in this match. I dare you. Before you do though compare his stat’s to FPN… 6 runs for 48m and 29 tackles from a back-rower without the responsibility for ball distribution from the ruck and with the luxury of timing his runs. The Rooster’s have carried a lock who doesn’t run the ball and whose contribution in defence is nothing more than average at best now for over two months. Keep in mind that tackles in the modern game are attributed to players being 3rd in or for merely placing a hand on your opponent.

    The distinct lack of any offloads point to all that’s left to tell in this game and given the aforementioned it’s not surprising that SBW tries the money ball to Mini late in the game. Shame on anyone criticising SBW for trying to put on something when nobody else was showing any real spark. Bar JWH and Jake, this forward pack of late without LO’D and Cordner is a municipal councils worst nightmare. Hole diggers, intent on mindless one out plays without enthusiasm. Shame!

    If SBW quits the Rooster’s at the end of this season it will be for one reason and one reason alone. That is the belief that those around him expect him to carry his share of the load whilst they remain unwilling to put in to the same extent.

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    • Sorry for the late response, the man flu has claimed this young writer 😦

      On SBW — you;re right. The problem with rating superstars is that we hold them to a much higher standard than the rest of the players. We know what they are capable of and when they don’t perform those feats — even though no-one else can — we say they’ve had a down game. Now is that fair? Probably not. But its the reality we live in sadly when watching sports, which i touch on in tomorrow’s rankings.

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  2. I can sense the disappointment oozing out if every word …

    Someone, somewhere, has held a seance and brought back the 2012 Roosters. Those last 2 perf are way out of character, and testament to the enormity of losing Cordner. It’s akin to losing Ricketson for the 2004 GF.

    When this happens, there’s usually something going on behind the scenes, and the SBW/rugby circus cannot be helping – him or the team.

    Having said that, sometimes we all seem to regard him as a zen-like ornament to the game who is above al the emotion but he is just as human as the rest of us. He’s allowed to get angry and react to on-field taunts and targeting, because be assured, it’s happening. And the contract issue just has to have its claws in his (and the team’s).

    Having had the pleasure of seeing all top 4 teams this w/e, I can assure you the Bunnies were just as lethargic, and if Tuquiri hadn’t been out of position – again- an 18-6 half time lead might have induced a small fire in the village. Alas …

    The Roosters weren’t allowed attacking space by a TItans team perpetually offside, and often even with a skinny 10. I’m not sure why this is allowed to occur.

    Of all the teams, Manly are hitting their straps, which I’ll blog about today if I can.

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    • It’s a great point: these players are human and the niggle must be annoying — hell, it’s annoying to watch. But this is the second straight week the niggle and in-your-face attitude has gotten to the Roosters, and it’s a tactic opposition teams are sure to employ at every opportunity for the finals.

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  3. @Dr NRL,
    I don’t think anybody can rightly disagree with anything you’ve said but the Rooster’s need only concentrate on what is within their control. In a similar vain, I personally was disappointed with yesterdays crowd of just over 17,500 but let’s not concern ourselves with the ‘absent 10,000’ and play for the 17.5k that actually showed up.
    If next week we happen to turn this form around and win is that all that matters? Should the ordinary performances of the last 6-8 weeks just be forgotten? I suggest the membership ‘glass-ceiling’ we seemed to have hit in recent years is for this very reason.

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  4. I believe they can be forgotten with a really solid showing, if not the win. That old cliche “take it one game at a time” applies to form as well; is an eight-game winning streak against nuffies as impressive as a win over the bunnies? Not in this writer’s opinion. And is a good performance in a loss to the Storm more valuable than a six-point win over the Raiders? I believe it is.

    Therefore, these two losses will be forgotten should they perform well on Friday night. And the Roosters should have already forgotten the disappointment by now. Whether they can perform that way is another question.

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  5. One change turns our fortunes around – Mitchell Pearce doing three things (1) In attack, SLOW DOWN ! You are too hyped, man – you stress out your back line. Watch Cronk and Thurston. Calm and chill! (2) Drop the bloody hospital passes (3) On last tackle, use the bomb in equal measure to other options. We desperately need repeat sets. Against the Titans with minutes to go, 4 behind, you bombed a defence that were out on their feet – it was ordinary, it was diffused and game over. Another set, we score and win.
    Good analysis mate.

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    • Cheers mate and you’re on the money; the past two weeks, there’s been a distinct lack of composure across the park, and not just with Pearcey. The flat balls at the line have been too common and are high-risk, low-reward plays at the best of times. They need to return to the basics that made this team so great: honour the defensive line, show effort out of marker and change it up on that double decoy play. They’ve been predictable the past two weeks, but the biggest problem is their defence which has just slipped off a cliff the past month or so.

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  6. Sorry to hear sniffles.
    But I’m going have to stand my ground on my second comment. I read today the Roosters have apparently been focused on round 26 for the past few weeks. Now I’m not sure if there’s any real truth to that or not, but what I do know is crowd numbers have continued to drop over the last 6 or so weeks. Are we really fair-weather fans or have we seen and heard it all one too many times by now and know better when we see the signs. If the Roosters are at all serious about growing their membership numbers, then the Roosters need to put on their best show for the entire 26rounds (lol), and not play ducks & drakes with peoples hard earned.
    It may sound somewhat harsh, but if we want memberships to grow significantly then what we need as a club is to promise if we go down, we go down fighting. Nobody can expect any more than that surely.

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  7. Pingback: Off-season series: Who will be the Sydney Roosters fullback in 2014? | 26 Rounds·

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