St George Illawarra Dragons 20 (Widdop, Nightingale, Faifai Loa tries; Widdop 4 goals) bt Sydney Roosters 18 (Friend, Mitchell, Matterson tries; Hastings 3 goals) at Allianz Stadium.
The refereeing sucked — and considering this website hasn’t touched the refereeing standards all year, that’s telling. It’s the easy crutch to fall back on, sure, but the 50/50 calls, if you could call them that, went each time to the Dragons.
The hit by Dylan Napa and Boyd Cordner in the final minutes…it was brutal, it was tough, but it wasn’t high. Napa’s arm went across his chest, and it was a head clash that forced Boyd Cordner and Taane Milne from the field… but the Bunker slowed it down and called it a penalty. This writer may be biased..but I say that’s just a good hit that hurt the tackler just as much as the tacklee, one that certainly wasn’t high.
Yet that was just one in a litany of calls that went against the Chooks at critical moments under Ben Cummins’ watch… if you could call it that. And it’s the kind of hit you expect the Roosters to get penalised for: after all, it was Cummins in charge, and he once infamously penalised Braith Anasta for a grapple despite getting punched in the fucking head (pardon the French).
But don’t let me editorialise when we have someone better placed to do so… because Trent Robinson was particularly scathing, which if anyone knows Trent Robinson, is hardly the norm. You can say Roosters fans cry “refs fault” a lot, and we do on many occasions, this writer included. But the coach, he’s as measured as they come.
Until Monday night that is, when in the post-match presser Robbo went full Scarface on the referees and dared the NRL to say hello to his little friend. Or at least he wondered why Cummins wouldn’t say hello to his little Jake Friend.
After blasting the bunker for acting as the Match Review Committee and making repeated “soft” calls on a number of hits including the last one, the coach simply let loose on Cummins:
“Ben’s been horrible, disrespectful to our players for many years, and it’s continued. We’ve had a good, high percentage win rate up until this year, and Ben Cummins, we’ve won two games under him. He speaks poorly to our players, won’t look them in the eye and then they have a 20 metre restart at the end of the game with four minutes to go; plays on, winger has to carry it back in. We have the lying in the ruck penalty, which is a horrible call. He wasn’t even impeded, he was square at marker and went and made the tackle. That’s play on. It’s just poor.
“The way he spoke to Jake during the game was unacceptable.”
Robbo then had another dig at the bunker, and the Dragons to boot for the repeated laying down to draw penalties. Describing a late hit on Jackson Hastings that mirrored one that the Bunker penalised the Roosters for in the first half, Robbo said that:
“It was late, but he gets up and plays on. That’s our game, you’re on Anzac Day. Get up and play on. We didn’t lie down for that penalty, but then if you do, the Bunker gets excited, puts it in slow motion and decides to penalise it. That’s not out game. It’s not our game.
“I see Thurston get laid out over and over, but he gets up and plays on. You can’t lie down and then come and make a big play on the next play.
“It’s not our game.”
“I’m not saying we should have won today, I’m saying we should have had a chance to win today.”
Yet what we saw in the post match presser was perhaps the g-rated version of a ref spray, with The Mole reporting that:
It’s something to keep an eye on, with one report from a Twitter follower, who’s as trustworthy as they come, claiming his father heard from the tunnel that Robbo kept yelling at Cummins “you don’t speak to my players like that Ben”. So watch this space
It won’t be the first time the Roosters have had dramas with Ben Cummins: aside from the Anasta penalty, he was also criticised in 2014 by Trent Robinson for coaching Manly against certain plays in the ruck, while penalising the Roosters immediately for the same indiscretions. There’s more which we detailed back then in this article, and in light of Monday’s game it’s an article that remains amazingly relevant, even two years on.
But even the best refereeing in the world can’t help the Roosters hold the ball.
This is key: shit refereeing doesn’t matter in the end if the Roosters held the damn ball, on the driest of tracks, no less. Much like the game versus the Panthers just last week, this one was lost in the first half which was simply a comedy of errors.
This writer was camped down in Bay 38, in prime position to watch a Roosters attack on that tryline. He saw nothing of the sort as the Roosters held the ball less than a juggler with Parkinson’s coming out of their own end, culminating in an unforgivable intercept try to Kalifa Faifai Loa which gave the Dragons effectively an insurmountable lead.
Per NRLstats.com, the Roosters dropped the ball seven times in the first half and conceded three tries and nearly 180 extra metres — despite missing just two tackles. That’s not a misprint. Two missed tackles but three tries against. That’s insane. All three tries were the result of inept play by the Roosters at the worst possible times, and it’s those errors, more than anything else, are the reason the Roosters have now fallen to a horrid 1-7.
We may look to the Knights with some confidence of a forthcoming win, but we’ve yet to earn the right to be confident. This loss stings because we still could have won this in spite of shite refereeing. Instead its another tight loss that was possibly preventable had the Roosters protected the ball and held it with any respect.
Man of the Match.
Consider this: just 12 weeks ago, Ryan Matterson broke his leg. He should have been at least brought back slowly to match fitness with Wyong after barely being through a pre-season with his new club and a new structure.
Instead, he comes back last week as a later call-up to the Wyong Roos, gets man of the match, and is thrust into his debut in the biggest annual non-finals game of the year.
And boy, did he stand out. Two try assists, nine runs for 74 metres, an opportune try, strong defence and a surprising kicking game almost brought the Roosters out of the self-imposed shitstorm into what may have been the most memorable Anzac Day comeback since Mat Head kicked a sideline conversion back in 2005.
Alas. Instead, Matterson will simply have to settle for the 26 Rounds Man of the Match award and accompanying $25 gift certificate from FAI Insurance.
It was a fantastic debut considering that he’s played just 80 minutes of footy all year. His rise and instant success poses a dilemma: with a full-strength squad, where does he fit?
Is there the opportunity to keep him in the squad with a bit of a tweak here and there? As Twitter’s astute judge of lineup tweaks Ando (@Ando4285) suggested, is there the option of shifting Jacko to the back — where he’s had great success at the junior level — and move Latrell, who is struggling with errors, perhaps thanks to the weight of expectation, out to the wing where he can grow at a slower pace? That leaves a halves combo of Pearce and Matterson…
Food for thought, at least.
Cordner… welcome back. But the problems are deeper than lack of depth.
Not far behind Matterson was Boyd Cordner, who despite not having played a game all year had one of his best ever running games with 176 metres off 16 runs.
He warned us through the week, though, that he wasn’t the saviour, and it ended up prophetic: the team crumbled around him and through piss-poor refereeing and just abominable handling the Roosters ended up where they’ve been five times this year: losing by four points or less.
Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves retuning soon will help, but until the Roosters get an attacking structure in place that works — and one can argue it hasn’t truly existed since 2013 — then all the talent in the world won’t help them.
The club does not have that overload of talent that can win games by themselves anymore. It’s linebreakers of years gone by are all elsewhere, and those most likely are still a few years off doing so with any consistency.
Sheck. Jennings. Maloney. SBW. They aren’t coming back, and it’s no coincidence that the attack has fallen off a freakin’ cliff this year. We can argue about the validity of keeping those players around or not — but what’s done is done. The only thing the Roosters can do now is work with what they have, and when the most likely game-breaker is an 18-year-old who will have the occasional four-error game as he did against the Dragons, no amount of JWH-induced menace or MP7-delivered experience will be able to overcome that.
Stats (accrued from NRLstats.com)
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