Sydney Roosters 38 (Ferguson 3, Aubusson, Liu, Pearce tries; Hastings 7 goals) bt Newcastle Knights 0 at Allianz Stadium.
Yes. The Knights were atrocious. Squeak had a better chance of scoring if he had a $100 bill hanging out of his zipper than the Knights, and as we know, he’s a little bitch. And yes, that’s a Baseketball reference, but the reference was long overdue: because like the Milwaukee Beers, we are an original club starved of success and this win was the sweet elixir we all needed to once again feel good about ourselves. Roosters fans were teetering on the proverbial Malaka-Laka Balance Board of Trust, wondering when the madness would end. And it did, finally. At last. In a blow-out, no less.
For many — OK, only for me, really — the 2016 Roosters are the Johnny Drama to the 2015 Roosters’ Vinnie Chase. They’ve been in the shadows while their better, proven selves reminded us of what they could be. But all it takes is the right opportunity and the smallest of moments, even against a side that is horrendous (such as Drama getting a role with fellow has-been Andrew Dice Clay in a cartoon) to be able to yell “Victory” with an ounce of self respect. That opportunity presented itself tonight in the form of the Knights, which were horrible from the jump.
To wit, the Roosters rolled all over the Novocastrians to the tune of (per stats on NRL.com) 57 per cent possession, an 83 per cent completion rate to 71, a MAMMOTH 1826 running metres to a meek 1155, five line breaks to zip, 15 offloads to five, and just 17 missed tackles to a whopping 52 from the Knights.
Fifty-friggin-two missed tackles. Holy shit.
The score actually should have been much greater than those stats suggest and perhaps would have been if it weren’t for a first half in which the Roosters were working through yet more new combinations ( in the halves and out left) and when they missed a few opportunities by the thruff of the scrote (the SKD near try to end the half, for instance).
But this game was never about margins. It was about regaining some confidence. And holding a team — any team — to nil ensures the confidence in the defence rises. Scoring seven tries, even if some of them came through lucky bounces, offers the same rise in belief.
Roosters fans across the board agree that this was the best they have looked all year. There was purpose to each run. They backed everything up. They tackled hard and in numbers on the line, left to right. They broke the line through actual, crisp line runs, which they hadn’t done all year.
And to reiterate, yes: the competition was poor. The Roosters should have scored more. But in a season of drought, this writer will take mass improvement, crisp footy and a 38-0 scoreline every day of the damned week.
Man of the Match.
Many will point to the impact Mitchell Pearce had, and yes, there will be more on that later. And yes, the real Man of the Match will perhaps not have had the impact he did if his trusted partner in crime wasn’t involved — as has been the case all season when this guy hasn’t claimed a single Man of the Match award.
But we can only judge on a game’s performance, and this was a standout game from Jake Friend who gets this week’s Man of the Match award and takes home the $25 Brashs voucher, to be used in-store only.
You can point to his two try assists, 48 tackles and three tackle busts and think “yep, solid game”. But it was his speed off the play-the-ball that kept the Roosters in constant motion and led to an insane near-700 advantage in running metres. It was his support of the 15 offloads that kept the defence on the back foot. And it was his occasional kicking that kept the pressure off his halves and the defence guessing.
This was the Jake Friend that was once upon a time known as Cameron Smith’s heir apparent to the Queensland number nine throne.
Sam Moa deserves some real kudos too, turning back the clock with a massive 161 metres off 17 runs in 53 minutes, all season-highs when the Roosters needed them most, while Aidan Guerra (146 metres off 18 runs) and Latrell Mitchell (165 metres off 13 runs and vastly improved positional play and respect for the ball) also stood out.
In Latrell’s case in particular, the 18-year-old gave us all a glimpse of his immense talent with a second-half run that beat at least 50 defenders — a run that reminded everyone just why the future is brighter than the Roosters’ seemingly-bleak present may suggest.
Ross shows why concussion tests are mandatory for those clearly incapacitated by callousness.
After copping a disgraceful love tap to the right ear lobe from Dylan Napa in the first half which left Nathan Ross clutching said ear lobe as if he were listening to the ocean in a painful seashell — to which the heartless redhead Napa callously mocked for “diving”, proving once and for all redheads lack souls — the winger dropped the pill thrice and had three tries scored down his edge, including one directly from his error.
This alone shows the vast importance of mandatory concussion tests, but for argument’s sake let’s compare it to an incident in the first half in which Roosters winger Joe Burgess suffered a concussion after one of the Sims boys hit him high with a shoulder.
Instead of staying down, which is nowadays common and accepted convention, Joe Burgess showed just how concussed he was when he stupidly got up and played the ball before collapsing in a heap. Amazingly, the referees blundered and gave him a penalty despite his being so disrespectful of the current game when he got up off the ground.
But the Roosters took him from the field. He was concussed, clearly: who stands up in those moments? And the Roosters, in no coincidence, ended up winning 38 zip while the Knights struggled to another unhappy night. One team, the winner, took their concussed player off and the losing squad didn’t. Had he been ordered from the field after such a sickening hit, would the result had remained the same? Doubtful, as he was allowed to remain on the field and had three tries scored down his end.
Therefore, 26 Rounds is making a call: after every hit, the victim must be removed from the field if they remain down afterwards.
They wouldn’t stay down unless they were concussed, would they?
The Pearce effect.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so the saying goes. But the truth is absence actually makes you forget why you were angry in the first place.
We lamented our lack of a kicking game when Mitchell Pearce played prior to 2016. We thought he didn’t offer much in the way of imagination. We thought his kicks went down their throats and that our attack lacked any ad-lib surprise that the likes of the Broncos or the JT-led Cowboys employed.
But what we forgot were the intangibles. We forgot that Pearce has been the integral part of this club, as its first choice halfback, since he was 17. We forget that Jake Friend has only really known one real halfback in his time in first grade and thus may be ambivalent about trusting implicitly the instincts of 19 and 20 year olds.
But we were reminded early just how integral the Pearce Effect is to the well-oiled machine at the Roosters under Trent Robinson.
For starters, they went left. Regularly. Mitch Aubusson had 17 runs primarily at left centre: that’s the most by a left-side centre at the Roosters this year. They attacked constantly. They had a halfback with speed who supported and finished off what can easily be described at the Roosters’ crispest try of the year.
They finally had a second half who defended stoutly and helped fix up the leaky ship on the right. They finally had a half who consistently and dangerously attacked the line (12 runs for 122 metres), and took pressure off a developing half’s long kicking game (372 metres). They had a player who hit the line and passed to players who’d been receiving those passes since they made the top grade.
We forget about the value of continuity. And again, this was the Knights. They were awful. But the Roosters, with their supposedly-disgraced former captain back in the number seven, showed exactly why they are going to cause a few dramas at the back end of the season to a few teams.
Maybe sometimes we need to forget, if only to appreciate the value of the thing we’ve long since forgotten.
Stats (accrued from NRLstats.com)
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