(Tied) 1. Mitchell Pearce
Stats: Eight runs, 51 metres, one offload, one tackle bust, one line break assist, two try assists, 13 kicks for 396 metres, 18 tackles, no misses.
Since he was dropped from the Origin squad, Mitch has been solid but far from spectacular. He’s been above average, but he hadn’t made the selectors regret a thing.
On Saturday, though, his second half was exceptional. And while it probably isn’t enough to warrant a recall this year — or if the Blues win the series, even next year — it at least showed his loyal Roosters fans why his dropping was a blessing in disguise for the club.
He took the game by the thruff of the scrote* in the second half, setting up two tries and defending like he did during the run to the Grand Final last year (no misses). His running game, at the very worst, asked questions of the defence every time, and he led the club with a composure they needed despite an unexpected half-time deficit.
It’s his running game that’s been unsung this year, by the way. While he may not break the line in the way that other dominant halfbacks can, he’s making shit happen off darts pretty regularly.
At 26 Rounds we came up with the Value-Added Run Rate, which is basically the percentage of runs that include a line break, offload and/or tackle bust (minus errors). Mitch is fourth behind just Jake Friend, the error-free Mitch Aubusson and the tackle-busting fiend Daniel Tupou at the club:
To wit, he’s actually fourth at the club in offloads (0.69 per game) and he set up a try when he took it to the line and found Jakey in support. In short, I’ve enjoyed Mitch’s running game this year, and it doesn’t get enough credit.
*Props to the 12th man for that marvellous spoonerism.
(Tied) 1. Sam Moa
Stats: 22 runs, 176 metres, 22 tackles.
Speaking of credit, will this guy ever get some? He has the most dominant regular season game of his career, easily his most dominant since the Grand Final in which he arguably should have walked away with the Clive Churchill Medal, yet yesterday all we heard about was how Jared Waerea-Hargreaves raised his elbows for a second.
As a result, Moa had the quietest and least-discussed 22 hit-up game ever. Thanks Benny; yours and your captain’s rant stopped the rugby league world from recognising just how lucky the Roosters are.
Those are Matt Scott-esque numbers, but again they’ll go unrecognised as they did in the Grand Final. However, if he keeps pulling performances like this out on the regular, people will cotton on eventually.
3. James Maloney
Stats: Nine runs, 57 metres, one tackle bust, one line break assist, one try assist, nine kicks for 206 metres, 16 tackles, three misses.
For the first time this year, Jimmy and MP7 both had good games in the same game. Twitter’s world-famous Ryan Heighway (@Heighway_) pointed out a month or so ago that Pearcey and the BBQ rarely have played a dominant half together, instead one half was free to dominate while the other took the back seat and settled into an organisational role.
Not in this one.
Jimmy had a hand in the first try and in the last two, and his kicking had Jake Mamo (who amazingly somehow snagged a point in the Dally Ms ahead of both Jimmy and Mitch, proving once and for all those awards are a joke) and Uate under pressure all game.
4. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Stats: 16 runs, 127 metres, one offload, seven tackle busts, two tries, one line break, one kick for 15 metres, three tackles, no misses.
Have you ever heard of Ini Kamoze? It was one of those one-hit wonders from my misspent youth. And by misspent, I mean I actually spent money on those dogshit ” So Fresh 1994″ compilation CDs, of which Ini Kamoze probably featured.
Their hit song was “Here Comes The Hotstepper”, and every time RTS runs the ball, steps late and makes a half break that song pops into my head. All I want to sing is “Na, nananana, nananana nanana nanana.”
If that song didn’t have the word “hotstepper” would this be relevant whatsoever? Absolutely not. But it does, and I can’t get the fucking beat out of my head whenever I see the Sheck do something everyone of us mere mortals could only pull off in a video game if we had a fucking cheat code.
He pulled off one play in the first half, just in the process of a standard run up the middle, when he put his Nightcrawler routine on and made an extra three metres through sheer brilliance. It had the small crowd oohing and aahing, and he literally made just three metres extra. That’s it.
5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Stats: 16 runs, 126 metres, five tackle busts, one try, one line break, 10 tackles, two misses, one error.
There was some ridiculous Facebook post in the Sydney Roosters Supporter’s Group — maybe two, three weeks ago — questioning why the Roosters would allow Tautau Moga to leave while we’d be stuck with a, and I quote, “shitty SKD”.
Seriously? It’s fans who post this shit which make me question how much people actually watch the games and care what the fuck is going on, because SKD has been and continues to be one of the Roosters’ best this year. And it’s not even a contract year when you’d expect players would play better and focus more to secure a new contract; he’s simply improved to the point that the missed-tackle making, dropped ball-having SKD of 2013 is barely a resemblance to the one who wears the number four this year.
He’s averaging 3.21 tackle busts while playing more direct than he ever has. He leads the Roosters — repeat, HE LEADS THE ROOSTERS — in one-on-one tackles, averaging 2.21 a game, while reading the defence better than ever before (missing just 1.71 tackles; by comparison, defensive leader JWH is averaging 1.79 a game albeit with more tackling responsibility).
Some fans need to start watching the games, and they could do worse than watching SKD’s performances in the past two weeks, or over the entire season, really.
6. Jake Friend
Stats: Five runs, 31 metres, four tackle busts, one try, one line break, two kicks for 51 metres, 39 tackles, no misses.
His try in the second half epitomises exactly why Jake Friend has been among the Roosters’ best this year. He’s often the recipient of the offloads (as dummy half that’s expected; he’s gotta get there to dish it out after the tackle and he’s always chasing the play as a result) but what he’s doing with it once he gets it is setting him apart.
He’s taking the offload and starting something new every time, looking to make the most of the bonus play — and against the Knights he turned Pearcey’s offload into a try of his own, one that made fans breathe just that little bit easier.
7. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Stats: 16 runs, 136 metres, 22 tackles, one miss, two errors, one apparently horrendous play.
What a shock. An accidental raising of the arms didn’t get charged despite one of the best deflections seen this side of a tennis ball hitting a force field courtesy of Master Bennett. He’s free to play in two weeks against old pals the Manly Sea Eagles, and if he continues his recent form the Roosters have a shot of taking the two from Brookie, as they did last year.
In a game in which we saw the Chooks kick a field goal for the first time in two years, we also saw the rarest of games from JWH: that’s right, he had a game with an error, two in fact. Amazingly, those are his first two errors of the year.
Not a misprint.
8. Sonny Bill Williams
Stats: 14 runs, 107 metres, two offloads, 28 tackles, no misses.
Sonny Bill’s running was hard, direct and effective. He didn’t set up a try, break the line or score a try, but he didn’t need to. Instead, SBW’s biggest effort was in defence where, in 79 minutes of action, he made 28 tackles without a miss. And that’s the part of his game that goes largely unnoticed.
In 2014 he’s averaging an amazing 38.86 tackles for every miss; by comparison, the closest player to that average at the Roosters (outside of Remi Casty who is yet to miss in just four games and in very limited minutes) is Jake Friend at 24.23.
9. Anthony Minichiello
Stats: 10 runs, 126 metres, one offload, one line break, eight tackles, five one-on-one, no misses, one error.
What the fuck was Uate thinking when he didn’t even try to step around Mini after making a break in the first half? He just ran straight at Mini like George Rose to a cupcake, and the Captain made a courageous tackle to stop a try.
Mini found some form after a horrible five-error game last week (he made a critical line break in that first half too) and his switch part-time to the wing is paying dividends, at least in tries; he leads the club with nine meaties.
10. Isaac Liu
Stats: 12 runs, 116 metres, one tackle busts, one try, one line break, 25 tackles, two misses.
Yeah. So Liu is a winger. To be fair, he’s probably quicker than Mini.
He played a season-best 53 minutes (he averages just over 30) and he had his best game as a result, with his first try and his first triple digit running game of the year.