REVIEW: Cowboys 42, Roosters 10. An inexcusable loss; an unexpected silver lining?

NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 42 (Linnett 3, Sims, Thurston, Wright, Tate tries; Thurston 7 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 10 (Minichiello, Mortimer tries, Maloney goal).

Crowd: 15,361 at 1300SMILES Stadium.

Game Summary.

[Note: The statistics mentioned in the following were updated by NRL Stats overnight from the initial tallies derived at time of publication. As such, the stats used in the commentary will differ from those in the now-updated summary table at the foot of the article.]

There are plenty of excuses for why the Roosters could have lost this one — but none of them for the flogging we witnessed.

We can try to pin it on the loss of Pearce and a media circus that rivalled anything they ever saw in the club’s supposed “crisis” years. We can blame another lopsided penalty count, which included something we haven’t seen before: a referee going back two plays to check a high tackle (it was high, but going back two plays is unprecedented).

We can try to blame it on the humidity that would turn even the most aerated of box protectors into a bowl of balls soup. And you can blame ME for awakening the ghosts of Darwin 2012 while you’re at it.

Shit, we can even try to blame Trent Robinson for using Sonny Bill Williams at five-eighth, weakening the forward pack, when he had Daniel Mortimer and his superior organisational play ready to go.

But none of those can seriously be considered an excuse for a team that just failed to match even a third of the energy the Cowboys put out in the club’s biggest loss since round 26, 2012, when they were pumped by the exact same scoreline by the Bulldogs who, ironically,  they play this week.

You really only need to know this: Matt Scott had 24 hit-ups in this game, or 14 more than the Roosters’ entire starting front row. Need more depressing stats? James Tamou also topped the output of our front row with 16.

Together, they destroyed the Roosters up the middle for 347 metres, laying the perfect platform for the Paul Green-coached Cowboys to repeatedly stab grubbers at the corners and force the Roosters to bring it out from an impossible position, which they overwhelmingly failed to do. Together, they ran it for three more metres from two fewer hit-ups than our forward pack. All of them. Combined.

The Roosters failed to run it for even a kilometre (just 857 metres) and it’s the third time that’s happened this year. The Cowboys made 611 more metres than the Roosters: it’s the fourth time the Roosters have been monstered by at least 400 metres in a game in 2014.

We dropped the pill like a raver with Parkinson’s, while the Cowboys held it like it was their newborn. We then gave away penalty, after penalty, after penalty.

You knew there was something askew when Toops failed to get to the first bomb of the match, which allowed the Cowboys to score the fastest try scored this year — and it just got worse from there. They threw two forward passes from dummy half and made comical error after comical error.

Meanwhile, the Cows scored three of their first-half tries through scrambling on loose balls near the line, epitomising the difference between their effort and ours. Their fifth tackle options were superb, and they got to the fifth almost without fail — while our fifth tackle options were awful on the rare occasions we got there.

So what was the excuse? Truth is, there isn’t one. They failed to show up against a team that is proving unbeatable at home, and now they head into the bye rounds and the Origin period at a mediocre 5-5; they lost just six times all of last year.

They were lethargic and thoroughly out-enthused. Period. A loss would have been OK; the flogging was inexcusable.

Man of the Match — seriously?

Jesus. How do you pick a Roosters Man of the Match from that??

Forgive me, I’m new to this whole “writing compliments after floggings” escapade. This site only came online last year and there is no performance in that time that comes remotely close to this. So I guess we’ll have to choose one through a process of elimination.

We can rule out any of the forwards: as I mentioned earlier, they ran it for 344 metres, or three metres fewer than their two starting front-rowers combined. The only bright spot was Guerra, who threw the cutout for the first try and was the only one close to cracking it for triple digit runs (nine) while his defence was largely superb.

We can pretty much rule out the halves: Maloney tried hard but had three errors including throwing a bullet pass to Frank Paul Nuuasala’s forehead. And Sonny Bill was barely sighted in attack and was left grasping at ghosts when Jonathan Thurston stepped him in the first half.

That leaves the backs. We can rule out Toops, whose third-minute blunder was the dynamite in the mountains that started the avalanche. Jennings did nothing wrong, I think: to be honest, I can’t recall seeing him in this one.

And then there were three: Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Anthony Minichiello and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. SKD was solid but just couldn’t make the metres amid a rushing defence while trying to escape the corners, and he missed four tackles to boot.

So Co-Man of the Match goes, begrudgingly, to Mini and The Nightcrawler.

Source: ABC.

Mini gave them a hope with a rare line break from the goal line followed by a try not long after — he ran it for 97 metres off nine runs, and nearly held up Kane Linnett for the first try. I’m not convinced he didn’t, either.

But that grubbering fifth-tackle tactic from the Cows was aimed squarely at him, and it paid dividends — he did well on a  few occasions but Paul Green knew he either wouldn’t be able to bring it out with ease or would fail to clean up. The latter didn’t happen, but the former did for the most part.

Meanwhile, Rodge was the only player to crack triple digits in metres and at least left us with a decent memory when he pulled out the step of the year before darting away and finding Morts with a deft little grubber for the final try of the match:

8vn6s

Just for the lulz, watch Ethan Lowe’s attempted tackle here. He’s literally grasping at someone who teleported somewhere else:

8vn8o

He also broke away with an incredible run in the second half which led to the Roosters playing for another tackle before the referees threw away all convention to go back to his tackle just prior to the break. But even RTS dropped the ball and failed to make an impact when the game was in the balance which, admittedly, wasn’t for long.

Cordner could face a stint out, but our “Origin” players: in?

Source: NRL.

Source: NRL.

Boyd Cordner came off in the second half after twisting  in a tackle and suffering what was initially diagnosed in the game as syndesmosis, or a high ankle sprain. Robbo said after the game he hadn’t received a diagnosis and was unsure of the extent of it, but one can assume the club doctor had told Scott Prince what the initial diagnosis was.

If it is in fact syndesmosis, it’s a cruel blow for Boyd who was/is on the verge of another Origin jumper and had enjoyed an injury-free year for the first time. While we will find out more from the Roosters in the next few days, if it is syndesmosis it’s the same injury (albeit hopefully not as bad) as the one which ruled the second-rower out for nearly two months heading into the Grand Final.

The Roosters were already set to head into the Origin period with potentially five players lost to NSW (Jennings, Cordner, Maloney, Pearce and Tupou), but with Boyd potentially out for an extended period Laurie Daley may be forced into a new strategy. There had already been talk that Cordner’s performances may have kept Pearce in a Blues’ jersey despite his much (read: overly) publicised drama last week — the thought being that if he was to drop Pearce for booze he’d have to drop Cordner as well, which would leave the Blues well short in the back row.

But If Boyd is indeed out, and that line of thinking is on the money, then Pearce might not be selected. And if Pearce isn’t selected, Maloney wouldn’t be either. And Tupou did his selection hopes no favours in this one when he was bumped off easily for a try by — wait, by Matthew Wright? Yikes.

Jennings will be a Blue; he’s proven over and over again that he’s worthy of a spot regardless of form, and he’s a big game player. The others proved that too with a Grand Final win, sure, but lost in the discussion on Blues selections is that Maloney and Pearce have hardly set the world alight this year. Tupou’s been patchy and largely contained at club level save for a few incendiary performances in certain games…

… in short, will the Roosters have as close to a full deck as possible next week against the Dogs, who stand to lose Tony Williams, Josh Jackson (if Boyd is ruled out), and potentially Josh Morris, Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson?

As a Roosters fan, selfishly, I hope so.

Game and Player Stats

(Click to enlarge, or flip your smartphone on its side)

StatsRd10

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