(Tied) 1. Sonny Bill Williams
Stats: 19 runs, 149 metres, four offloads, two tackle busts, one line break, one line break assist, 23 tackles
I had a long debate with Twitter pimp Ryan Heighway about Sonny Bill being given my co-man of the match award (shared with Jake Friend). He was adamant that SKD did more to help the team when the game was in the balance, and as we’ll discuss below he was very, very good.
But in my opinion Sonny Bill was nearly back to his omnipotent best despite the four errors which came largely through him trying to spark a team that looked like extras in The Walking Dead.
He did have one dodgy offload but the rest was first class, including an over-the-top special for SKD and an offload which started the second phase play for the first try. He ran it well and often, and was pivotal in getting this team over the line.
(Tied) 1. Jake Friend
Stats: Eight runs, 71 metres, two offloads, four tackle busts, one kick for 39 metres, 36 tackles.
The Tyrion Lannister of hookers — incredibly small but everyone’s favourite character — is back after a slow start to the year and it’s no coincidence that his form return has coincided with the team’s first three-game winning streak. He’s backing up everything and running it as well as he ever did last year.
He came off with a concussion according to 26R pal Chandler Bang, with Aubusson filling in ably, but the Roosters do lose a lot when he is off the field. His offload off a 15-metre support dart was critical to the team’s first try, and with Sonny Bill was a key spark for a lifeless squad in that first 30 abhorrent minutes for the club against a decimated squad.
3. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Stats: 15 runs, 115 metres, two tackle busts, 13 tackles.
I can’t understand how Shaun Kenny-Dowall missed selection for the Kiwis. Sure, they had Peta Hiku, Steve Matai and Dean Whare to choose from, but SKD is in career-best form on both sides of the ball and is playing arguably better than at least two of those players mentioned.
Heighway was right when he said that SKD was responsible for some huge runs to get the Roosters out of trouble against the Tigers, and played an error-free game — which is becoming the rule these days rather than the exception.
This talk about Ferguson being registered this year may affect the confidence player in SKD, but all he needs to know is that if he continues the form he’s in he’ll maintain a spot in first grade for this year and beyond. In my opinion he’s playing better, safer football than his breakout year in 2010.
4. Daniel Tupou
Stats: 12 runs, 142 metres, four tackle busts, three line breaks, one try assist, two kicks for 30 metres, no errors.
Do not be surprised on bit if Toops is playing Origin this year. He was excellent for the City squad as the lone Roosters representative which led to talk of him snagging one of those open wing spots, and his performance against the Tigers only helped his cause.
Maloney picked him out for attention and Toops repeatedly shredded his opposite man for two tries, three line breaks and a try assist.
His opposition for a Blues spot it seems is the following: Jarryd Hayne (unless he nabs the fullback or right-side centre spot), James McManus, Josh Mansour, Jorge Taufua and Michael Gordon. I personally love what Mansour brings and would pick him in a heartbeat, but Tupou would not look out of place given his combo with Michael Jennings and the form he’s in.
5. James Maloney
Stats: Six runs, 73 metres, one tackle bust, one line break, two line break assists, three try assists, five kicks for 141 metres, 19 tackles, five misses.
Say what you want about a few of his choices, but to do what Maloney did with a needled-up shoulder is remarkable and proves the lightweight BBQ is among the toughest dudes in the NRL.
The three try assists were all superb and he almost scored himself. His five missed tackles are a concern, but compared to some of his efforts this year that can actually be deemed an improvement — his misses, also, are sometimes the result of him being bumped off but his body at least halted momentum to allow others to complete it.
His running game is back, and his support play off the SBW offload was what we’ve been waiting for.
6. Michael Jennings
Stats: Eight runs, 158 metres, 13 tackles, two tries.
He simply doesn’t get the ball enough. Remember that two of those runs were from backing up Jimmy’s break and from swooping on a loose ball. Maloney and Pearce repeatedly but him out to find the scorching Toops, but when Jenko got it he did what Jenko do: finish.
7. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Stats: 13 runs, 125 metres, one offload, 29 tackles, two misses.
This wasn’t quite the game we all expected from Jared after all the talk during the week that he was “fired” up after being snubbed.
What did improve was his energy out of marker, a JWH staple that did for for his club last year than any big run ever did — he was back to barking orders at the ruck and pouncing out as soon as the ball was clear, stifling dummy half runs before they had the chance to happen.
8. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Stats: 14 runs, 191 metres, one offload, two tackle busts
The Nightcrawler needs to really work on his bomb-catching — and his team-mates need to learn to back him the hell up.
He dropped an easy catch in the first half from a relatively soft kick, which put the Roosters under extra pressure. He’s no Minichiello under the high ball and needs to get some tutoring from the same guys that taught Mini and Slater once upon a time.
But he was let down by his team-mates on the break he made when no Rooster was in sight as he looked to offload. He’s not the quickest winger despite his reputation, and Brooks wrapped him up pretty well — but that should have been a try if the rest of his team was switched on.
9. Boyd Cordner
Stats: 12 runs, 117 metres, one tackle bust, 15 tackles, one try.
Does Boyd really face sanction or — Heaven help us — a loss of a guaranteed Origin jersey for arguing with bouncers? Has anyone MET a bouncer? They were born arguing.
He was solid without being spectacular in this one, but should be a shoo-in assuming he doesn’t face sanction, especially with Greg Bird facing 4-6 weeks on the sideline.
10. Sam Moa
Stats: 11 runs, 83 metres, two offloads, 22 tackles.
Moa only played 47 minutes but they didn’t need him for much more than he gave — he’s had a heavy workload the past two weeks, both mentally and physically, and earned a bit of a rest game. Regardless, what he did in limited minutes was superb, as always. Can we honestly say we’ve ever seen Sam play a bad game?