MANLY SEA EAGLES 8 (Blair try; Lyon 2 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 0.
Crowd: 14,902 at Allianz Stadium.
The Roosters, who have struggled defensively but been on fire in attack this year, defended like their lives depended on it but attacked with as much originality as the writers of The Hangover II (“Let’s just do the same story — in THAILAND!), slumping to their first scoreless game in more than two years.
The last time was back in round two of 2012, when they were beaten 18-0 by the Penrith Panthers.
That’s incredible in and of itself — then you throw in the fact they failed to make a line break in a game against a top four team from last year for the second time this season, and you begin understand how difficult the premiership defence really is.
The game looked more and more like the Sea Eagles — after five losses last year (including a trial) — have finally figured out how to stop the Roosters, epitomised early when they brought down Boyd Cordner on the patented double decoy play early.
The Roosters lacked the imaginative faculty to muster anything beyond their set plays in attack for the second time in four games, and the Sea Eagles totally bottled up our strike weapons out wide — as if Lyon and Williams were Zed and the Gimp, and Jenko and Toops were Marsellus.
They dropped more ball than an amputee juggler, miscuing 15 times (per NRL Stats) and usually while coming out of their own end.
They had 15 fewer sets and completed 20 fewer than Manly, and allowed the smaller Manly pack — which was missing Glenn Stewart after 10 minutes — to roll for 519 metres more than the Roosters.
They were bullied by Anthony Watmough and they let Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans run riot in parts.
Manly, in short, deserved to win.
But it was really, really hard to say that with a straight fucking face after the Roosters were again pummelled by the inability of one Ben Cummins to adjudicate the game both ways equally or fairly. But we touch more on the referees in another article published today.
For now, we’ll just concentrate on everything else — and everything else wasn’t that good.
But the fact they only let in a solitary try is testament to their incredible defence, which for once looked back to its scrambling, record-setting best.
Man of the Match.
How do you pick a man of the match from a team that didn’t make a line break, didn’t look like making a line break and was again dominated up front for the third time in four games?
Well, you look to the player who seemingly gave his all, played the 80 and stood out like a boner at a bra burning.
Now that he is injury free, Boyd Cordner is beginning to elevate himself into the conversation as one of the game’s premier second rowers — if he wasn’t there already.
He continually punched at half-gaps trying to look for a way to spark his squad, and ran it for 125 metres from 15 runs. In fact, only he and RTS broke it for the triple-figure metres gained.
What set the Roosters apart last year was the metres they made coming out of trouble, yet in three of the four games in 2014 they’ve lost the yardage battle by at least 400 metres. It’s just not there this year, but Boyd is doing his absolute best to remedy that.
Not far behind him were his back-row partners in Frank Paul Nu’uasala (84 metres off eight runs in 43 minutes) who alleviated a bit of the pressure with a few huge runs in the second half, and Mitchell Aubusson who had 35 tackles, just one miss and stopped many a raid in conjunction with his inside and outside men.
It’s been three out of four games that have been well below par for El Capitan, Anthony Minichiello — and the eyes of defenders light up whenever he gets the ball coming out of trouble.
He struggles to get to ground any more, and he is easily dragged back in-goal whenever he’s in spitting distance of the line. He inexplicably tapped the ball out in the second half after Peta Hiku randomly threw it back in, and DCE peppered the in-goal with grubbers knowing full well the Count struggles to pick them up. While Mini had just the one error, this writer lost count of the repeat sets forced in this one.
But more importantly, his running game is but a memory. He made just 68 metres from 12 runs against the Sea Eagles, and that’s been about average this year for The Count. Take away his magical game against the Eels and he’s averaging just 59 metres from 9.33 runs and 2.33 errors a game, and he has just one tackle bust with no line breaks.
He is the fullback, at least in defence. He should make 10 runs a game just through kick returns, and certainly more metres than the paltry 6.3 he’s making per run.
It’s been said before, and it’s sad to say, but the sooner RTS moves to fullback full-time, which includes all kick returns up the middle, the better.
What is going on with our forwards?
I know it’s hard to get a run when you don’t have the ball, and the Roosters had jack shit in terms of possession. But the lack of go-forward when they do have the ball is remarkable this year.
JWH had another very quiet running game, and his impact is stymied as he looks to be carrying an extra bit of weight. He had just eight runs for 64 metres, and his front row accomplice, Sam Moa, was held to 73 metres off 10 runs. That’s just eight and 7.3 metres a run, respectively.
Moa had one run every five minutes, and JWH was even less efficient with 6.25. The Roosters are depending far too much on their backs to bring it out of trouble, and that needs to change.
Suspension — unlikely, but also totally probable.
Jared, for what it’s worth, shouldn’t have any trouble with the judiciary. His shoulder literally had nowhere to go and Stewart’s head fell into it. JWH was in a tackling motion and wasn’t moving, his arms were moving to wrap him up at the very moment of connection.
But given he’s been suspended six times in four years, it’s not completely out of the realm. I was actually surprised he wasn’t sent off — fuck, they’ve sent him off for less.
Maybe the week off will be good for him though. He needs to get some of the weight off and realise how much the club actually needs him. When he was suspended last year — ironically, against the Sea Eagles — he returned (against the fucking Sea Eagles) and put in 21 runs for 180 metres with 26 tackles, no misses and no penalties.
He has just 38 runs this year. Total.
…But the defence is back.
The Roosters only need to combine the attack of the two weeks prior to their defence from Friday, which made what should have been a blow-out (considering the stats) into a game they could have snatched at any moment.
The drop in defensive efficiency through three games was more alarming than their attack has been impressive, but despite 31 missed tackles they just scrambled and hit hard when they needed to. So despite the loss, there are probably more positives to come out of this game than the win last week against the Broncos in the dying minutes.
They’ll face the Bulldogs next week with Sonny Bill Williams ready to suit up — and that should make life easier in attack just through his presence and threat. Life is about to become rosier, assuming the Roosters can put it all together.