PARRAMATTA EELS 14 (Sio 2, Radradra tries; Sandow goal) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 12 (Moa, Tupou tries, Maloney 2 goals).
Crowd: 15,312 at Pirtek Stadium.
This game was on the cards. Everyone could see it, but no-one wanted to truly believe it. After all, we just flogged the Eels 56-4 a month ago, surely there couldn’t be a 54-point turnaround?
That’s exactly what it was, and the Eels took their two wooden spoons and shoved them up the arse of that thinking. They scored two easy tries where all Ken Sio had to do was literally fall over the line, and found mini-cracks in the defence all game.
Conversely, the Roosters found cracks but couldn’t put the proverbial pearl necklace on a few plays, leaving themselves with a massive case of blue balls as they slumped to their third loss in a row.
You could tell from the first minute of the game on Saturday night against the Eels when Boyd Cordner broke through that the Roosters have begun to doubt themselves, and are feeling the pressure to score.
You could see it in the way he ran, thinking to himself “I can’t bomb this”. All he had to do was draw Jarryd Hayne and pass to Maloney outside him, yet he allowed Hayne to stay in a perfect lane to block any pass. He then bombed it, and knocked it on.
It looked like the floodgates were going to open, but when he bombed that try you got the sense that there just isn’t any water in the dam. They depended on a 90-metre effort and a superb individual burrow from a prop to trouble the scorers, although they had plenty of opportunities to cross throughout the game.
James Maloney and Mini both contributed to a missed opportunity in the second half when Maloney threw a no-look loft pass to Mini who was too far infield to receive it. Jake Friend almost scored the un-scoreable, channelling his inner Jenko to nearly touch down on a long kick that would have put them in front, but he probably didn’t expect to ever get that close. Sonny Bill Williams was stripped for a try and held up for another, and Tupou made two errors on the left edge with the line pubic-hairingly close.
They also declined a penalty goal again, and in parts played some really dumb footy. It was epitomised by a baffling, bizarre option following SBW’s try that was held up: after two minutes of reviews, and what would seem like ample time to come up with a decent last tackle play, Maloney receives the ball and throws an inside pass to Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Handover.
But that wasn’t the only time their fifth tackle options were poor. I mean, Shaun Kenny-Dowall was forced to kick it. Twice.
Many fans may want to blame referees after another lopsided count (and one ridiculous forward pass call), but that’s becoming a crutch to explain away the Roosters’ woes — just look at the chances the Roosters had and didn’t complete.
They have simply forgotten how to score, and forgotten how to win. But let’s remember one thing: The Roosters started off even worse once upon a time and recovered to win the premiership. In 2002, they started 1-4, and this year they’ve lost their past three games by a combined score of 11 points. Granted they had a few more injuries (including to God) but a hole is not that hard to dig out of.
The Roosters, despite being poor in each game in parts, have been in every game this year bar one.
It could be way, WAAAAAY worse. It could be 2012.
Man of the Match.
(Stats used may be dated by the time this goes to “print”, apologies if they seem a little off. We’ll update as the stats get finalised.)
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, at last, was an influence, and helped the Roosters to perhaps their best platform all year.
He had 17 runs for 122 metres with 29 tackles. He also had two offloads, both poor, but at least he was trying it. He repeatedly put his hand up, and while his impact per run is still well down from last year, but at last the effort was there.
The 17 runs were four more than his highest total prior to this game — although one run is one he shouldn’t have been forced to take after getting it on the last with just two minutes to go. The week off showed just how much they need old JWH, and he responded with a season-best effort.
Was it 2013 JWH? Not quite… but he’s at least back on the right path.
Not far behind him was SBW in his 100th game — he was agonisingly close twice to scoring but was stopped by some individual brilliance from Hayne each time. He also put his hand up for 12 quality runs, 111 metres, three offloads and 27 tackles despite a rare interchange for 10 minutes towards the end of the game.
A platform, finally.
The Roosters have been repeatedly pummelled up the middle all year, running it an average of 200 metres less than their opponents. And while this was against a relatively small Eels pack, the Roosters finally managed to make metres and put in attacking kicks.
According to NRL Stats (which will have been updated by the time this post goes to the website) The Roosters lost the possession count 54-46, dropped the ball 11 times, gave away four extra penalties and had 11 fewer runs, but made 200 metres more than the Eels.
It was an effort the Roosters have been crying out for, especially after last week when the Roosters’ backs accounted for 63 per cent of all runs.
But where were the halves?
It’s just a shame that platform was wasted due to another down game (to put it politely) from their number six. Maloney put in a clever grubber in the first half for a repeat set and threw the ball to Tupou who busted through the line, but apart from that it was all pretty much limp from the incumbent NSW five-eighth.
He has been criticised from pillar to post, and you could see the intent and effort was there from Maloney — the frustration was evident on his face during the Boyd bomb and the missed pass to Mini. But his execution is just… off. His kicking game — aside from that grubber — was largely ineffective, that last tackle play to JWH was ridiculous, and he gave away a penalty immediately afterwards.
Meanwhile, Pearce was solid at best, but his defence let him down a few times and he just didn’t take the line on — he had every opportunity off quick play the balls to put something on, but didn’t. Last year, he was taking it right at the line and putting players through late, but a lot of his work recently has been well before the defensive line.
To be fair, he threw the inside pass for Moa’s try, the ball for Boyd’s break and they pass to get SBW nearly over the line. He copped a barrage of criticism on social media and it was a bit over the top. But he is being relied upon too much to make something from nothing, and that’s not his role: that’s Maloney’s.
At this stage, we’ll at least have Maloney during the Origin period, and Mitch will probably be the victim of the Roosters’ recent record despite, in my opinion, him being the Roosters’ best-or-second-best player through the first five rounds.
Where are we, really?
Weirdly, I think this start is probably something the Roosters needed. In the first two weeks, they were 2-1 and looked to be coasting; the energy and enthusiasm just wasn’t there and that record hid that pretty well.
But after losing two straight and struggling to score, you could see at least that the energy had returned, that complacency that they were too good for any opposition was gone. They fought hard last night, but just fell short in several critical areas: execution, poise and smarts.
Despite those missing aspects in recent weeks, we’ve been beaten by just eight, one and two points during this losing streak.
I honestly believe that if the score that try off the Boyd break, they go on to win handily. But they are over-thinking everything and it’s showing through the frustration of every miss.
Tupou didn’t even smile after his 90-metre effort that gave every fantasy owner who had him in their squad a massive fat, and Boyd couldn’t stop blowing up at himself following the bombed try in the first minute.
Heads are down across the board. They were cursing themselves after one minute; the 2013 Roosters would have dusted themselves off and bounced back.
In that vein, they need to dust off the DVD of the premiership to show themselves just how dominant they can be. They need some confidence, and hopefully that comes with a bit of open space against the Sharks next week.
They need to get back to instinctual footy. They need to take the reins off and just play.
Most importantly, they need to have fun again.