SYDNEY ROOSTERS 24 (J Maloney 2, A Guerra, M Pearce tries; J Maloney 4 goals) bt SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 12 (G Inglis, J Clark tries; A Reynolds 2 goals).
Crowd: 59,708 at ANZ Stadium.
Note: if the below gifs don’t load, please click on them to open them in a new tab. Cheers!
How fucking sweet was that?
The Roosters overcame injury, down form, a (prior to this game) hot Rabbitohs squad, an offensive banner, an horrendous (again) penalty count and some of the dirtiest play seen this side of a German Scheisse movie to bounce back with a 24 to 12 victory over their hated rivals at New Redfern.
(Thanks to @sootster for the new name for ANZ Stadium. Bet the bank is happy with that one.)
This writer predicted a loss, putting the injury count and expected penalty count as too much of a hurdle to overcome. Well, this writer was wrong. Dead wrong.
This writer underestimated the heart of a club that has been around since 1908 without a break. He underestimated the club’s pride in its defence after four weeks when it went missing, and it underestimated just how much this win meant to the team – both to get back into form and also to test itself in the biggest club game in decades.
Never has this writer been happier to admit he was so wrong. Because this was, without a doubt, one of the greatest wins in the club’s history.
They were down four starters and were forced to play Aidan Guerra out of position in the centres and bring Marty Kennedy back from an 11 week injury layoff into one of the more physical, intense games in recent memory.
They battled poor discipline once again, which included two penalties while in possession — a stat that must be a season high for one club in one game. As expected, the penalty count was more lopsided than the election a night later, but the Roosters returned to not giving a shit as they romped to the first seed in the finals series.
The minor premiership seems inconsequential compared to the victory of the moment. Fans are now looking far beyond the Roosters’ first J.J. Giltinan Shield since 2004 as they now believe they can raise the more significant trophy for the first time since 2002. And after Friday, that confidence is understandable.
Man of the Match.
Is this a trick question? Am I being punked?
Sonny Bill Williams earned his paycheck, the praise, and the respect of every rugby league fan besides those in red and green after a five-star performance against the Bunnies. He started by getting bumped off by Greg Inglis for the game’s first try but everything after that was simply outstanding.
He carted the ball up and left the ball playing to others, getting dirty and amongst it to literally carry this team. He put a beautiful shot on Chris McQueen in the first half despite defending out in the centres, and picked his spots with the offloads in the second when he took the game by the balls – and not in the way Sam Burgess does.
He bobbed up everywhere: up the middle for a break and a beautiful no-looker to Mitchell Pearce; on the fringes where he offloaded at will; and even in goal when he diffused two kicks in the air and made 12 metres each time off the restart.
He almost broke the line every time he touched it and when he didn’t he made metres or offloaded. It was the perfect second half following the early bump off. And to think the rumours were he wouldn’t play due to a calf injury.
We are seeing this more and more from Sonny Bill; he warms into the game before exploding in the second half and carrying the team. He tried it in both the Sharks and Titans games but the execution was slightly off, but in this one he dominated as only he could.
All up he had 18 runs for 214 metres with three offloads, six tackle busts, a line break and a try assist. Of those, 10 runs, 127 metres, two offloads, four tackle busts, the try assist and line break came in the second half.
But as good as SBW was, he only just shaded The BBQ.
Maloney scored a double and kept the Bunnies on the back foot with a superb kicking performance when he repeatedly found grass. On any other day Maloney would take the lollies, but not when SBW does what he just did.
Shades of ’03, but in a good way.
Mini wasn’t able to chase down Anthony Don last week and the winger raced down the wing to score. The captain mistimed his chase and never got there.
But he didn’t miss in this one.
You could see the wheels clicking over as Mini tactically timed the run to perfection in this one, proving once again that experience is a valuable commodity in big games.
He jogged for the first part of the chase as Nathan Merritt broke free for a run down the sideline – this was so Merritt couldn’t step back in late and to increase the likelihood that he’d take Merritt out. And that he did:
If Merritt scores there, it’s game back on. Mini had missed a kick in goal which led to Dylan Walker’s near-try, but without him being inch-perfect on this play we might be talking about different result right now.
What a tackle. It compares favourably to Scott Sattler’s tackle on Skinny Byrne in the ’03 GF, and while the stage wasn’t nearly as critical, in a game like this against the Bunnies it was every bit as memorable and spectacular.
Nap Time has arrived.
What an incredible performance by Dylan Napa. Lost in the SBW performance and the victory itself was an 80-minute effort from the red-head with a future as bright as his hair.
He was thrust into the starting side after it was revealed that Mitch Aubusson would miss the game with concussion, and his stats probably reflect perfectly what Aubo brings to the table: eight runs for 50 metres with an offload and 32 tackles.
He gave away two penalties and had two errors, while also missing five tackles — but he made them when they counted, including one that was every bit as big as Mini’s.
With Sam Burgess barrelling towards the line having inexplicably not passed the ball to an open winger, Nap Time covered over the top, dislodged the ball and burrowed one of the best forwards in the NRL into touch:
He’s still raw, and sometimes his aggression can get the best of him. He can go too high in tackles and can drop the ball trying to be too enthusiastic to get it. But that agro saved a try against the odds. It was a pure effort play from the rookie in his first start in the NRL.
This young man is well on his way to becoming the greatest red-head in the club’s history.
Are we officially the most penalised team in 20 years?
Sadly, no. But all is not lost.
What this writer failed to mention in the match preview is that the “target” penalty count includes finals games, so the Roosters have a few games (hopefully) to join the rarefied air as the most penalised team in 20 years. They now average 8.54 penalties a game after Friday night’s whistle-fest as the Roosters got back to doing what they do best: getting whistled for minor infringements and trusting the itchy whistle fingers of Ashley Klein and Matt Cecchin.
They were out-whistled 11-5 in this one despite an eye gouge, a kick to JWH’s stomach and a push to the face of a defenceless man on the ground.
Was it enough though? The Roosters are at the moment just the most penalised team in only 18 years, and are 0.8 penalties conceded a game behind the 1996 Parramatta squad. And truth be told, they did all they could in this one to really try and get there, including an offload off the ground while in possession and JWH’s raised arm (discussed below). But it wasn’t enough when it counted.
The Roosters really need to pull their finger out, and given their efforts last week in conceding just four penalties, one has to wonder how bad this team actually wants it.
Is JWH in trouble?
Jared is always going to have concerns about his technique – he tends to jump into tackles and into the defence, and he’s not a natural ball runner in the typical sense: he’s maladroit and explosive when compared to, say, a Luke Bailey or Matthew Scott. Instances like the raised elbow to McQueen’s throat are always a possibility due to his running style.
It’s highly likely that – given his judiciary history – he’ll be charged by the match review committee, and the level of charge — if he is charged at all — could determine whether we have Jared back for the second week of the finals or whether he will be out for the remainder of the NRL season.
For what it’s worth, the latter is highly unlikely but the former is a distinct possibility:
Now in full speed it looks better because surely that’s an instinctive play to raise the arm to protect himself, but in slow motion it looks far worse. However, a precedent has already been set this year as The Sunday Footy Show pointed out:
Pomeroy’s tackle was placed on report but he was not charged for the incident. If you are comparing the two, which one is worse? In this writer’s opinion, Pomeroy had every chance to not raise the arm in that instance in a front-on tackle, while JWH is spinning out of one and within an instant is facing another tackle – and it seems more of an instinct play to protect himself than anything malicious. That’s not to say Pomeroy’s was, or that he didn’t deserve to get off. But when comparing apples with apples, Jared should have nothing to worry about.
However, the one thing we know about the NRL is perfectly pointed out by Twitter’s world famous Free Rein Chook (@tempewaters, who also alerted me to the gouge, among other things):
Yep. It doesn’t look good, sure, and when you add in an inconsistent judiciary then Jared’s probably headed for a week.
Farewell to New Redfern and welcome to Manly.
The Roosters showed what they are capable of when they trust their defence, stick to a game plan and plug away with the dirty work when required. This is best exemplified by what Sonny Bill Williams treated us all to on Friday night.
And there really isn’t anything sweeter than beating the Rabbitohs, especially when they have a banner at the game as hideous as the “Scum: forever in our shadow” one. Despite all the reports on Twitter of violence and disgusting behaviour, the fans all woke up witha smile on their face because their team stood up and delivered for them in the best possible way.
We now farewell the Bunnies for at least two weeks as we face Manly in the double-header on Saturday night. The Sea Eagles lost yesterday, but no-one should look at that game as a gauge of where that club is. They were without Brett Stewart, Anthony Watmough and Jorge Taufua and when those three are back they are a different proposition — and they should all be back next week.
Either way, the Roosters have shown what they can do and are firmly back on track. That’s all we could have asked for considering the injuries they had going into the Rabbitohs game. We didn’t have to get treated to one of the club’s greatest ever wins: we just wanted a courageous effort.
We got both.
Match stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):