The Roosters beat the Sea Eagles five times last year. Five times.
They won when they conceded 18 points, and won when they scored a solitary try. They won when their defensive leader was sent off, and they won when we played a second rower at five-eighth and used a goal kicker who couldn’t throw a tooth pick down a corridor without hitting a wall.
Shit, they even won in a trial when they didn’t give a fuck.
The Manly club reportedly took a few dodgy calls in the Grand Final to the higher-ups, but us Roosters fans didn’t see those dodgy decisions, nor did we care: like Shooter McGavin, we were too busy WINNING.
So to those Manly fans coming over the bridge to Easts territory — assuming you know the way — enjoy what Allianz has to offer: rubbish food at the canteen that you would consider gourmet in the corporate boxes at Brookie; these things called seats; meat pies that don’t feel like they’ve been jizzed on; and the possibility of a round four win against a team missing its greatest weapon.
If you want to claim a win here as some measure of revenge, go for it.
We’ll enjoy our premiership.
Team for Round 4: 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, Dylan Napa, Siosiua Taukeiaho.
Kane Evans — who was charged with a Grade One Careless High Tackle — has avoided suspension after the Roosters took the early guilty plea. He has again been named on the bench for the Roosters.
Sonny Bill Williams will return from his shoulder charge suspension next week – just in time to face the Bulldogs. Remi Casty has again not been named for either the Jets or the Roosters as he recovers from a calf injury.
Last week it looked as though the Roosters were simply waiting for the opportunity to attack, rather than earning the right through a defensive effort that has fallen off this year. The Parramatta game aside, the Roosters have conceded 28 and 26 points to teams that are likely top eight contenders this year — and that will be the case this week when they play the somehow-ageless Sea Eagles.
How they’ll play
Their attack doesn’t need to change much — they’re averaging 43 points in their past two games, with 19 line breaks, 62 tackle busts, 11 line break assists and 15 tries. Their attack is fine. But Manly are again a different beast to the teams (Souffs aside) they’ve played already. And they may have to attack certain weaknesses to get through, regardless of their set plays.
The Roosters had huge success against the Eagles last year with short balls near the ruck, and with dummy half running near the line. From what we have seen of the Sea Eagles this year, they are still vulnerable to short plays off the ruck as their forwards can be confused with an angled run from a second rower. Boyd Cordner, therefore, looms as the likely recipient of this out on the left edge — not necessarily with the double decoy, but with a short ball off the hip of Jake Friend or the first front rower off the ruck (usually JWH on that side).
A different double-decoy will work a treat for at least one try I believe — shifting it infield to use JWH and Sam Moa as the Double-Ds, as seen here:
There is also space to be had out on the right side. Sure, Jamie Lyon is out there, but so is Cheyse Blair. The former Chook/Eel has a weird no-man’s-land defensive approach to coming in off his wing: It’s like Chris Walker Syndrome mixed in with Merrittosis.
If you watch this gif here, you’ll see Blair comes off just enough to open up the wing with a cut-out, and also just enough that he forces himself to commit to the centre:
The Roosters typically don’t use wrap-around plays ala Souffs in this case, so their attacking movement to take advantage of this would have to come with a little more depth and decoy running inside.
The key men here will be RTS and SKD. Dodge needs to hold the ball in front and semi-commit Lyon, before giving it to SKD — who then has the choice of attempting to go himself or feeding the unmarked winger with one of his patented over-the-toploads.
That winger will be Mini, and he needs to improve his sub-par play this year. Take the Eels out of the equation, and he’s had three certified shockers if you include the WCC.
I love him, and he’s an all-time favourite here. But another shocker won’t look good to fans, especially with The Nightcrawler killing them in a part-time role.
Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to bomb it towards the wing of David Williams. Because, you know, this happened:
MANLY SEA EAGLES
Team for Round 4: Peta Hiku, Cheyse Blair, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, David Williams, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Starling, Matt Ballin, Brenton Lawrence, Anthony Watmough, Justin Horo, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: (from) James Hasson, Dunamis Lui, Jamie Buhrer, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Tony Satini.
Banter aside, Manly are my second-favourite team to watch. They are the Northern Beaches version of us: roundly hated and happy to be. They are a proud team that plays beyond the sum of its parts, and they know exactly what they are: a grind-em-out squad that knows how to win through experience in the big games and pure heart.
Kieran Foran is incredible, and Daly Cherry-Evans is the best halfback in the competition: a creative wiz who truly has it all.
Foran was a late withdrawal last week with a calf injury but has been named in the number six jersey for the grand final rematch. Jamie Lyon returns to the right side centre spot, with late call-up Tony Santini dropping back to 18th man as insurance for Foran. Meanwhile, Jason King will miss the game after taking the early plea on a grade one shoulder charge. He’s been replaced on the bench by Jesse Sene-Lefao.
Brett Stewart remains sidelined with injury, but Peta Hiku has filled in ably in his absence, as he always does. Jorge Taufua and Tom Symonds also remain on the injured list.
But it really doesn’t matter who they throw out there. This is one of the proudest teams to grace a footy field, and they dig in each and every time. Roosters fans remember only too well the wars these clubs had last year — and the 4-0 first-round match was almost as memorable as a great all-time battle of birds as the Grand Final was.
Just a reminder though: the Roosters won both.
How they’ll play
Their attack has been focussed purely on the ability of their centres, and with good reason: they have Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai, with the latter in the attacking form of his life. Inside each of those they have what many consider to be the best halves combination in the competition.
Lyon comes up against a left side defence featuring Jenko, so it makes more sense to head left where the Roosters leaked three of their five tries last week, one a week earlier and one with three line breaks in round one.
I hate harping on the point, but the Roosters’ weakness is definitely down that side — Greg Inglis’ three tries attacking the left in round one notwithstanding. Considering the form Matai is in, it just makes sense that they get the ball to him as often as possible.
He has four tries, two try assists and two tackle busts in just three games, and he’s shown excellent decision-making mixed with an ability to get around his man and draw defenders. It doesn’t bode well for SKD and either RTS or Mini out on that flank — they will need to be on song and attack any raids early.
DCE, meanwhile, is overdue like Yosemite to explode for a big game. He has just one try assist and one line break through three games, and that combination on the right with Lyon hasn’t totally clicked — yet. Is this the game he busts out?
Expect a renewed focus on a running game in this one on the third or fourth from 40 out from the halfback, and on the line expect a few grubbers aimed mid-field at Mini when the captain is playing fullback.
The Count was counting errors last week: four in all. DCE will try and compound that form as he looks to strike his own.
Every game last year was decided by 12 points or less, and given the way the game is being played and how these teams are faring, it’s hard to go past a 1-12 scoreline here.
But it’s a toss-up.
I’ll go with the Roosters at home, because I was encouraged by the quotes coming from Mitchell Pearce this week about a need to focus again on the defensive end — and fuck knows they need to if they’re to have a chance against this squad.
Man of the Match will be Jake Friend. You remember the discussion above about short balls and play around the ruck? Friendy is the key man here, and he’ll be keen to put a slow start to the season behind him.