1. Sonny Bill Williams
Stats: 16 runs, 131 metres, seven tackle busts, two line breaks, two tries, one try assist, one line break assist, five offloads, 23 tackles.
Now THAT is a stat line. No matter what happens from here on out, Sonny Bill stays in the second row. When he focusses on running first and leaves the attacking flair until the defence gives him something, he is without question the best second-rower in the game; one who will be sorely missed next year.
He can do the hard stuff up the middle and make metres, he can throw short balls for streaking hole-running centres, or he can step, weave and dive over like this:
If we ever see a second-rower with this kind of agility and strength ever again, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Only a select few CENTRES can run it like that, let alone a behemoth with the strength of SBW. Just watch his right-foot-step-to-left-hand-fend again:
He’s been close to a performance like this for a while, but it just hadn’t all clicked into until Friday night. Here’s hoping he has a taste of the good stuff and gets hooked — but more important is that the good stuff comes to him more naturally now that he can go back with some form of recency to remember how dominant he can be.
2. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Stats: 14 runs, 143 metres, 27 tackles.
Seriously, David Klemmer? You want to prove yourself as a hard man, I get that. But to fire up the beast in Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, following a game against the Cowboys in which they needed to aim up, is just stupid.
We will never forget the ridiculous goose step that even had your captain baffled, but then you got owned, son. And you inspired JWH to perhaps his best defensive half of the year in the seond half despite coming off for a concussion test.
His running game was his best of the season, and it was his most controlled game aggression-wise. He led from the front and his defensive leadership went a long way to keeping the Dogs at bay despite seven consecutive sets to end the first half.
And he owned Klemmer. The lesson? Don’t awaken the beast, David. But thanks for doing it as well.
3. Jake Friend
Stats: Six runs, 51 metres, two tackle busts, one offload, three kicks for 96 metres, 42 tackles.
The newly-minted Queensland hooker-in-waiting is back and the Roosters are reaping the rewards. After a down week against the Cowboys in which he was forced to over-defend (59 tackles) he was freed by some excellent second phase play from SBW to attack the retreating defence to great effect.
His service out of dummy-half was as crisp as it’s ever been, and he should come out of the Maroons camp with the confidence that he’s the next in line after Cam Smith — that sentence would have sounded ridiculous in 2009.
4. Sam Moa
Stats: 13 runs, 103 metres, one offload, one tackle bust, 23 tackles.
I normally don’t condone the yelling at of players who are on the ground. We’ve seen the worst of when that happens when Blowjob Leilua yelled at Jordan McLean last year despite the youngster nursing a broken jaw.
But when it’s Michael Ennis on the receiving end, I can make an exception. After all, Moa was just giving him some advice.
I think everyone knows why Ennis was laying down face first like he was planking. Moa reportedly asked him nicely to “get on with it”, which for some reason caused a melee. But Moa was simply doing it for the good of the game.
Rugby league fans across the country thank you, Sam.
5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Stats: 15 runs, 107 metres, three tackle busts, one line break, one try, one offload, two line break assists, one try assist.
His days of scoring 20 tries in a season might just be over, but I prefer the form that Shaun Kenny-Dowall is in right now to anything he showed in 2010.
His defence has been excellent (even accounting for the step past him by Mitch Brown), his running game is direct, and he is reading the game in attack much better than he ever did. The offload he threw for Mini’s first try is evidence of that; the hole he ran off the delectable short ball from SBW was exhibit B.
He is now relied on as an extra forward, and while he’s bound for the wing next year with Blake Ferguson set to join the club, his form is making many wonder if Fergo should resume his career outside the current Roosters centre.
6. Mitchell Pearce
Stats: Five runs, 63 metres, one line break, one tackle bust, eight kicks for 201 metres, 15 tackles, one 40/20
It wasn’t exactly the performance he gave us after Origin III last year, but Pearcey came up with perhaps the play of the game when he kicked a mammoth 40/20 in the second half. Following that, the Bulldogs were forced to infringe with Tim Lafai intercepting an inbound pass from the sideline, with the referee forced to send him to the sheds. The Roosters were ahead just 20-12 at the time.
It was a huge play from the halfback which helped seal the game.
7. James Maloney
Stats: Five runs, 39 metres, two try assists, six kicks for 147 metres, 15 tackles, just one miss.
This was Jimmy’s best defensive game in quite a while, despite him still nursing that shoulder injury. He also put in the perfect kick for Tupou clone Nene Macdonald and did his best to break through with several probing runs. He may have let the team down with two penalties and a running battle with Ashley Klein, but otherwise was his chippy self.
That shoulder must be affecting his goal-kicking though; he hasn’t been near his best from out wide in recent times, and more than anyone he will benefit from the byes coming up.
8. Frank Paul Nuuasala
Stats: Seven runs, 68 metres, 25 tackles.
You can call him the new Third Man In all you want, but know this: FPN is there to stop the bullshit from other teams with the stink-eye he gives any opposing player who dare accost one of his teammates. He is the first to stick up for his boys, and that, more than anything, is why he is a valuable member of this squad. He also never misses tackles and makes the occasional run, but more important: if he is the “third man in”, I guarantee there won’t be a fourth.
9. Nene Macdonald
Stats: 10 runs, 102 metres, four tackle busts, one tackle, one try, two errors.
I’ve been waiting for this kid to get a run for a while, and he shows just how deep this club is. No-one outside the club knew who the heck he was, and the Roosters were expected to lose a little bit with Daniel Tupou on Origin duty, especially under attacking bombs.
Then this happened:
He has a lot to learn, but the four tackle busts were promising and you can’t teach height and strength.
But please, kid, pull your socks up.
10. Remi Casty
Stats: Seven runs, 52 metres, one offload, 27 tackles.
It was a solid debut for the French dude, who didn’t get that many runs but showed enough to suggest he will offer a lot to this club. He had a clever offload and his defence was superb; the speed of the game didn’t really affect him and he will only get better once he gets over the constant leg injuries. I have no doubt he could be the LOD for this team once he acclimatises to first grade.