CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 9 (C Stanley try; T Hodkinson 2 goals; J Reynolds field goal) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 8 (M Jennings try, J Maloney 2 goals).
Crowd: 12,584 at Allianz Stadium.
I’m done underestimating other teams and over-estimating where the Roosters are at right now. I look at the 2014 squad and see the 2013 premiers missing just one player, and think that they should be 4-1 after five rounds. But as someone told me on Twitter (feel free to pipe up, whoever it was — apologies that I can’t remember) the Roosters could easily be 1-4 right now, and by all rights probably should be.
It goes without saying that whatever I predict, do the opposite. Pull a George Costanza and go against my instinct. Because I couldn’t pick the tall guy out of a police lineup containing Yao Ming and six midgets at this point.
An inexplicably dumb move not to take the two with 12 minutes to go effectively cost the Roosters a game they probably didn’t deserve to win anyway, with Josh Reynolds slotting a field goal in wet conditions to give the Dogs the lead back, followed by the Dogs playing perfect football to stop any chance of the Roosters pulling out another magic trick.
We attacked, almost universally, the Roosters’ decision to take the two early in the second half against the Rabbitohs, and I am a big believer in the attacking squad taking the tap in those situations: it’s rare to get a set of six within sniffing distance of the white line, and it always seems the cop-out move and a white flag of sorts. It shouts “we can’t crack you” louder than Brick Tamland shouting “LOUD NOISES!”
But man, in this game, when points were at a premium and in horrible conditions, and with both teams just to hold the ball let alone manage a line break, you have to take the two there. You just have to.
I like the fact they trust their attack, but lets be honest: save for the Parramatta game and the last six minutes of the Broncos clash, their attack has been well below par so far. It’s the third game this year they’ve been held to single digits, and it’s the fourth time they’ve lost the metres-gained battle comfortably.
We’re relying on our backs to bring it out of trouble, and the opposition is just pinning it to the corners, knowing that on at least one of the tackles Mini will hit it up and open himself up to being rag-dolled back five metres.
But the defence is definitely back. After three weeks of it going missing to start the year, we can at least say that. The attack, however, has a lot of work to do before we can begin to think of this team as a title chance.
To be fair, the Roosters had their chances. Mitch Aubusson and Daniel Tupou came piss-takingly close, but ultimately didn’t cross the line due in large part to what appeared to be a lack of cohesion and crispness to the passing.
But nothing sums up the disparity of the Roosters’ attack and defence better than a tweet from Andrew Voss:
I can’t be arsed doing the research after a second consecutive loss.
Man of the Match.
It’s a co-MotM award, and both winners had an imperfect game.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck dropped a bomb in the first half but was again the chief metre-eater for the Roosters, making 152 metres from 21 runs, mostly attempting to get his club out of trouble. He had three tackle busts and his defence improved along with SKD out wide, as the right-side defence bucked the recent trends for the Roosters and held the opposition out.
He’s dropped two bombs this year and needs to improve, but given the slippery conditions, The Nightcrawler did well in a team that really lacked any punch.
Meanwhile, Mitchell Pearce was trying everything in his power to win the game for the Chooks. He was the lone playmaker out there for the most part, and his kicking game did alleviate a heap of the pressure that had been built by a swarming Bulldogs defence when the Chooks were bringing it out — he made 546 metres from 15 kicks.
He missed the field goal, sure, but it was a difficult angle. Regardless, he needs to re-learn how to take one after all but giving up on taking them following a few misses in the game against the Tigers in the 2010 finals series.
But he defended well — 15 tackles with three misses, and none crucial — and took some beautiful catches to diffuse an attacking kick, remarkable catches really considering the conditions. He also threw the ball for Jenko’s try.
These two players though, are Men of the Match through necessity more than anything. Both are taking on more responsibility than they should, which gives us the perfect segue into our next section and an accompanying article published today.
The flame is out on the BBQ.
James Maloney has lost the BBQ nickname until he starts cooking again. Through five games he is a shadow of his 2013 self, and at this stage is no chance of retaining his State Of Origin jersey.
He was badly outplayed by Josh Reynolds in this one, but really, this game was just a case of “more of the same” from Maloney this year. Check out what he did in 2013 when he rivalled his teammates Sonny Bill Williams and Michael Jennings for “buy of the year” in the entire NRL:
2013 Stats: 22 games, nine tries, 97 goals, 20 try assists, 16 line breaks, 16 line break assists, 362 tackles, 23 one-on-one tackles, 76 missed tackles, 48 tackle busts, six offloads, 25 errors, one 40/20, 1,312 metres gained, 130 runs.
…and compare those to his totals so far this year:
2014 Stats: Five games, no tries, one try assist, one line break, two line break assists, 102 tackles, five one-on-one tackles, 20 missed tackles, four tackle busts, no offloads, seven errors, no 40/20s, 174 metres gained, 23 runs.
Here it all is, in averages (red denotes the worst number of the two):
So he’s doing everything less effectively, plus they are running at him more, than last year.
He’s been a bit slow — he may be struggling with an injury — and he’s just not cracking the line. It’s affecting the play of his outside backs. As Julie (@Mz_Julz06) mentioned on Twitter:
While he saw a lot of ball in this one (see our other article today), it’s more the quality of that ball that’s been below-par. Maloney is not playing deep enough, and he hasn’t really been much of a chance of breaking the line this year, which means one threat is already nullified. As a result, it’s giving the defence plenty of time to rush Jenko and shut him down.
At this stage, we’ll at least have him through the Origin period — which is good, because we play in the round prior to all three games, when Origin reps must stand down.
But it won’t matter if he plays for us unless he picks up his current form.
I fucking love Ice.
It’s only after you haven’t seen Ice in a while that you start to crave Ice.
Not the drug: rather, Isaac “Ice” Liu.
He dropped a ball but looked back at home despite missing four games already this year after knee surgery, and made some easy metres that many in the pack could not.
He also didn’t seem to be shy despite it being his first game all year — you’d expect some hesitancy with players coming back from knee surgeries but Ice don’t bluff.
He fired himself into the defensive line seven times for 73 metres and made 29 tackles in just 32 minutes of action. With JWH and Moa both out of form somewhat — Moa’s last two games have been a little down — Liu could be the remedy to the go-forward woes the Roosters have suffered from all year with a few more minutes.
Unless Remi Casty’s calf heals and he ends up snagging a spot, Liu has probably done enough in one game (alongside the 15 last year) to secure one of those bench gigs. he established himself as a cornerstone of the Roosters’ forward pack last year, and nothing in his first game has me questioning that.
Parramatta… I don’t even know what to expect now.
The Roosters are now behind the 2013 wooden spooners on the 2014 table despite flogging that team by 52 points just three weeks ago. Where the Roosters could be 1-4, the Eels could just as easily have been 4-1.
Thank fuck I effectively gave up the punt this year, because If someone had told me that would be the case after five rounds I would have put the house on the fact the person who told me was on crystal meth.
But this year has been a nightmare for punters, tipsters and bloggers alike.