History at last in more ways than one.
The Roosters have now held six teams to nil this year, an NRL record — and held a team scoreless in a half on 19 occasions all up in 2013.
They’ve conceded just 325 points in 25 games at just 13 points a game — but the record of holding teams to nil is theirs and theirs alone now, with two games left to play (hopefully).
But how they’ve managed to do this despite being the most penalised team in 20 years is beyond this writer and many others.
In conceding 12 penalties on Saturday, the Roosters bumped their penalties conceded average to 8.68 a contest — thereby surpassing (for the moment) the 1996 Parramatta squad (which averaged 8.64 penalties conceded a match) to become the most penalised squad since the infamous 1994 squad that averaged a mammoth 9.41 penalties against.
Thankfully they are safe from passing that level: to average more than 9.41 penalties, they’d need to concede an average of 19 penalties over their next two matches, which is impossible without the State Government ordering a coronial inquiry immediately afterwards. It’s the law, I’ve heard.
These two statistics boggle even the most astute of minds. On one hand, we give the opposition more sets of six through ill-discipline in 20 years, but on one hand can shut a team down better than any other in the history of rugby league.
It defies any and all forms of belief that the Roosters have been able to do what they have done, but that kinda shows what we just saw on Saturday. Despite no line breaks, 47 per cent possession and a 12-5 penalty count against them, they held another team to nil — and not just any team, but one that had scored the second-most total tries to the Roosters this year.
Consider this head shook the fuck up.
The refs weren’t that bad. Seriously.
It is worth noting this: while the Roosters it seems again got stitched up in the penalty arena against Manly, the overwhelming majority were justified.
Maloney gave one away for holding on far too long, Marty Kennedy the same. Mini gave away a penalty for a kick at the ball in try scoring position. Napa gave away a head high tackle, as did SKD.
We cannot continue to give a shit about the refereeing and any perceived slights, because no-one is listening, let alone the NRL. And you know who else doesn’t give a shit? The Roosters.
They tried cleaning up their discipline and got swamped by the Titans when they gave away just four penalties. They returned to the best defence and clinical play when they stopped worrying about getting off the tackled player by drifting off to the side. Instead, in the past two weeks they’ve focused on the man in front of them, not the opinions of the men in pink.
And while a 12-5 penalty count against sounds egregious, decisions went both ways and by and large the overwhelming majority of penalties were deserved in this one. We got the rub of the green on a few occasions and in this writer’s opinion the referees made the right calls — especially when you factor in how egregiously they fucked up the Sharks-Cowboys game not an hour earlier.
At any rate, the Roosters continue to win in spite of themselves, and they seem to prefer it that way.
So blow that whistle, ref. Send that blood pressure soaring. Blow that whistle, ref.
Yes, this warranted a Keneally league poem reference. I fuckin’ went there.
The most frantic game this year.
On one play Jorge Taufua made a break, only to be wrapped up by SKD and was forced to offload it back in. It went straight to Mitchell Pearce, who went for a 40 metre dart of his own and was tackled. He got up and failed to play the ball properly, forcing another scrum.
This all happened in the space of 10 seconds. It typifies the game itself.
Peta Hiku almost made it to the line but three Roosters scrambled and pushed him back. Steve Matai found a gap and raced through but was ankle-tapped and stopped in his tracks. David Williams made a break and had Daly Cherry Evans open inside him but Roosters defenders blocked the passing angle and made him throw a difficult bullet in traffic.
But the play that best-exemplified the desperation and effort from both sides was when Kieran Foran went for the line, was tackled by Marty Kennedy and Mini, spun out from the Mini-grasp and had another go before SBW assisted Marty Kennedy, who was on the ground but refused to let go, holding out the five-eighth short:
For the most part you trusted the Roosters defence, but under a weight of possession this writer got the feeling three times in the second half that “yep, Manly are going in”, in particular with a scrum being set for Manly following a Jenko dropped bomb just 10 metres out. But then Jenko broke up the play on the line, the scrum reset and the Roosters broke the play up again on the next set.
The Sea Eagles couldn’t catch a turd with a toilet and the Roosters weren’t much better, but it all added to the spectacle.
The referees blundered on occasions but it went both ways, and the physical nature of the game saw two front-rowers head up the tunnel.
At any break in the last five minutes you could see the likes of Foran or Pearce hunched over, struggling to get that energy to get back up and compete, but they all did and we are all the better for it.
The last 20 minutes were among the most intense 20 minutes of football I have ever witnessed — and when SKD collected an offload from George Rose to seal the game was the first time I felt safe — a full 20 seconds after the siren went.
I made the point last week that the Roosters’ win over the Bunnies was among the five greatest games I’d seen from the club in my 32 years. The others? In no particular order: the Anasta Field Goal game versus the Tigers in 2010, the 2000 Freddy intercept grand final qualifier versus the Knights, the 2004 ANZAC Day Clash and, naturally, the 2002 premiership win.
Adam Nadile (@nadzy1984), who asked for the initial list, asked this week where this one ranks — and shit, it has to rank, doesn’t it?
Sadly that ANZAC Day 04 Freddy try may just fall out of this writer’s top quintet, because this effort was the most thrilling, emotionally exhausting, exhilarating, demoralising and ultimately emphatic defensive effort I can ever remember.
We now play the winner of the Melbourne-Knights match this week, with just 80 minutes and two week’s rest standing between the Roosters’ six grand final in 13 years, and this is perhaps the best team they have ever fielded on paper.
What a game. I’m still stunned.
Match stats per the Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge):