It’s pretty hard to clap when you’re holding two wooden spoons, but Parramatta fans had more clap in them than a brothel in the 60s as their club trounced the Warriors for the second year in a row.
They were dangerous everywhere and showed an ability to ad-lib their way to the line, something they didn’t have last year. Jarryd Hayne was back to his hop-skipping best, and there was joy in the way they played.
Contrast that with their opponents this week. The problem with having so much silverware is you leave yourself open to rust, and after taking home three trophies in six months it took just one game against the Burgii to knock the Roosters from premiership favouritism.
They didn’t break the line, they gave away 12 penalties and were effectively done expending energy in attack by the 38th minute.
They could go a long way to earning favouritism back this weekend, and the best way to rid yourself of rust is to shake it off — although this game won’t be as easy as it appeared prior to round one.
Team for Round 2: Anthony Minichiello, Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Boyd Cordner, Mitchell Aubusson, Frank-Paul Nu’uasala. Interchange: (from) Daniel Mortimer, Aidan Guerra, Kane Evans, Remi Casty, Dylan Napa, Siosiua Taukeiaho.
Sonny Bill Williams has been suspended for three weeks, and has been replaced in the starting line-up by Mitch Aubusson, while Frank-Paul Nu’uasala has again been named to start despite being shifted to the bench prior to the match last Thursday.
Meanwhile, both Kane Evans and Remi Casty look set to make their long-awaited debuts for the club, with both being called up to the top 17. Dylan Napa’s erratic game on Thursday sees him shift to the 18th man role, and wing/forward utility Siosiua Taukeiaho named in jersey 19.
The Roosters will have enjoyed nine days off since the debacle last week, and will have needed it after being destroyed up the middle by a physical Souffs squad. Many fans lamented the decision to go with just one prop off the bench heading into that game — although moving FPN back to the bench as a makeshift prop was an attempt to remedy it — and it certainly didn’t look good as the Burgii steamrolled the team last week.
Robbo seemingly isn’t taking the same chance this week, with both Evans and Casty in the 17 — at this stage, at least.
How they’ll play
The Roosters have begun the transition from Mini to RTS, with both splitting time at fullback. And The Nightcrawler repaid the faith somewhat, looking the man most likely to make a bust among a team that couldn’t find a hole on a putt-putt course last week.
He ran it the most of any Rooster and made four tackle busts to boot, and in a more open game could find some space around the ruck. If the Eels don’t chase their kick with a solid defensive line, Sheck could shred them, like this:
Did I make this gif just to remind us all of what a highlight looks like? Fuckin’ right I did.
But that’s ad-lib stuff the Roosters cannot depend on if they are to win. They need fallback options and go-to plays, and back-ups to those plays.
They tried bombing it to the wing several times last week but Beau Champion put his body in the way (arguably illegally) on three separate occasions. But the Roosters shouldn’t abandon the play, especially with Daniel Tupou having the leaping advantage against the bulk of Vai Toutai.
Toutai is also a little shaky under the bomb, as is Radradra, so expect plenty of bombs from 40 out aimed directly at either of those guys — but its likely the majority will be aimed at Toutai. Last year they used the tactic to great effect on the then-two game rookie, and the Roosters ended up pummelling the Eels 50-0. No doubt he’s improved since then, but if the Roosters chase hard and put pressure on him, a mistake could ensue.
The other side could be up for grabs as well, as Semi Radradra showed a habit of coming in off his wing a few times against the Warriors, with Jarryd Hayne playing safety. To wit:
They could play a deep or flat decoy play here to get their man open out wide, but perhaps a little closer to the line to stymie the threat of Hayne holding the winger up. If Sonny Bill were playing, you’d have it on him to throw the cutout to the winger, but with him gone someone like Maloney or even RTS (if he plays fullback) will take the onus.
The Roosters forwards will be keen to atone for a poor showing last week, and with SBW out they’ll look to roll it forward through their four-prop rotation and leave it to the little guys to figure out the fancy stuff for a change.
If the Roosters learned anything from last week’s league action, it’s the benefit of a quick play-the-ball and dummy half running under the new rules. Expect (or maybe hope is the better word) Friend and Morts and the two wingers to do a lot of this on the back of kick returns for easy metres.
It’s a big game in particular for Evans. If he does make his debut (he dropped off the bench a few times in 2013 at the last minute) he’ll come on and avoid the likes of Fui Fui Moi Moi and Tim Mannah. Roosters fans have been calling for this kid to get a start, and it will be the first glimpse at what he can do.
The Roosters lacked forward punch and stamina last game, so if Evans can maintain the semi-roll that Moa and JWH started last week before coming off, it will go a long way to him cementing a regular berth.
But it’s two years worth of hype, and pressure. Here’s hoping he lives up to even half of what many Roosters fans expect of him.
Team for Round 2: Jarryd Hayne, Semi Radradra, Will Hopoate, Willie Tonga, Vai Toutai, Corey Norman, Luke Kelly, Tim Mannah, Kaysa Pritchard, Fui Fui Moi Moi, Ben Smith, Manu Ma’u, Kenny Edwards. Interchange: (from) Joseph Paulo, Peni Terepo, Darcy Lussick, Kelepi Tanginoa, David Gower, Mitchell Allgood.
Nathan Peats has been suspended for an offseason off-field incident, and has been replaced at hooker by the wonderfully-named Kaysa Pritchard. His name always reminds me of those old Kaiser Stuhl boxed wine ads for some reason. But apart from that enforced change, the Eels return the same line-up that flogged the Warriors on Sunday.
They looked sharp across the pitch and attacked both edges, with those huge wingers they have in Toutai and Nines-turned-13s sensation Radradra both scoring hat-tricks.
Radradra, in particular, was superb. He chases every bomb, gets physical in the middle and knows also how to stay deep on the attacking play out wide. He’s attacking the Roosters’ notorious relative weak right-side defence in this one.
How they’ll play
Well, they attacked the fringes almost exclusively against the Warriors, so you’d expect much of the same in this one after the Roosters allowed three tries and several more line breaks on the fringes, from the centres out.
Radradra was unstoppable in this one, and could shred the defence out on the right. He’s massive, incredibly strong at speed and can fend off easily while stepping. He had three tries and a try assist against the Warriors with two line breaks and 150 metres off 18 possessions. Quite a workload for a winger.
In addition, all his try-scoring involvement came about with at least a tackle bust or two or an ability to drive through the defence. He seemed unstoppable last week.
He combined well with a sweeping Jarryd Hayne on the right-side attack, and Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Mini/RTS will need to be on high alert. A flat defence rather than the up and in approach with the centre (SKD) rushing in early won’t work in this one.
SKD was caught in no man’s land a couple of times last week, and the temptation will be there to revisit where he was caught to try and nullify an off-the-cuff sweep attack from Hayne and/or Norman.
This is just one example (SKD is the second-widest Rooster, and furthest up in the line, on the outside of Chris McQueen who makes a break):
He needs to not do that against a team that is seemingly impossible to prepare for.
The Parramatta forwards, while bigger across the board than last year, are largely not that skilled, hence the attack on the fringes.
A lot of people questioned the selection of Luke Kelly at halfback, but with two off-the-cuff playmakers in the squad already in Hayne and Corey Norman, they needed that steady Robson-like hand.
The Roosters will target him in defence, but in attack he has a nifty kick to the wings and behind the line that needs to be watched by whoever is playing fullback at the time.
But they will miss Nathan Peats, big time. He’s a very good dummy-half runner and underrated service man who competes on every play.
The Eels looked re-energised with a new coach, several new faces and the play of some unknowns who provided the energy you’d expect from someone making their debut — Manu Ma’u in particular was excellent and gave them the hard edge they lacked all of last year.
Their forwards are certainly more intimidating than the lightweight squad they ran out in 2013, and the match-up in the middle is no longer the one-way contest it was. Replacing Matthew Ryan with a former gangster will do that for you.
The Roosters, contrastingly, looked out of breath and like a squad that hadn’t learned the new rules which significantly sped up the game, and by the first half break they looked positively fucked.
They lacked spark and imagination in attack, and failed to administer any Plan B whatsoever.
I have to take the Roosters though. It’s the defending premiers versus the defending wooden spooners, and the bounceback effect after a loss should mean the Roosters — in particular JWH — look to atone for their worst performance in 12 months.
I wouldn’t bet on anything more than 1-12 though, and in fact I shan’t be placing a bet on this one at all. But going on recent history, and taking round one out of the equation, the Roosters simply have too much skill and cohesion in the squad to allow a repeat effort of the last round.
Man of the Match will be James Maloney. He’ll be the man most likely to throw cutouts to his wingers, and should set up a couple of tries at least.
Well, maybe not. But here’s hoping.