Bulldogs 32 (Phillips 3, Rona, Reynolds tries; Holland 6 goals) bt Roosters 20 (Mitchell 2, Tupou, Matterson tries; Taukeiaho 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium.
False hope takes many shapes. Often it’s the mirage in the desert, the stay of execution or mathematical possibilities — such as those we’re all bound to make when we look at the remaining fixtures, see we need to win 10 from 13 and start thinking to ourselves “that’s not impossible”.
False hope is also looking at the half time score of 18-10 and thinking “we’re in this” ignoring the fact that for 38 minutes the Roosters were starved of possession and when they finally got their hands on the pill they dropped it. The two tries they scored to get themselves “back in” were fantastic and up there with the Roosters’ best tries of the season; the first because it was the first time the Roosters have scored a try essentially all year through anything even remotely resembling a structure; the second was simply electric.
But those tries were effectively the glitter the team rolled their first half turd in to make it seem pretty. Underneath the glitter, it was still a piece of shit.
They had 34 per cent possession in the first half per NRL.com stats, completing just 10 of 17 sets. That’s unheard of for a team trailing by a mere eight points. It is all the more remarkable considering just how much the club shot themselves in the foot in that first 40. They got a repeat set during a time when they were down to 12 men; Daniel Tupou drops it off the dropout. They get a scrum; Ryan Matterson drops it off the first play off the scrum. Siosiua Taukeiaho dropped it twice. Latrell Mitchell basically begged the referee to put up 10 fingers.
The second half wasn’t much better in which they helped “improve” their possession for the whole game to 41 per cent possession. But for evidence of their lack of respect for the Steeden, they had 133 runs while the Bulldogs had 135 — and they STILL finished with just 41 per cent possession. When compounded by two refereeing blunders (more on them later), the Roosters never had a shot even though the score suggested they weren’t too far off.
They were, let’s be perfectly blunt here. They were waaaay off. Their hands were rubbish and some of the “defence” could be described as piss-poor if pissing didn’t actually require effort.
Josh Reynolds’ try typified the lack of defensive starch that once defined the Robinson-era Roosters. He put the kick in and it bounced off the back of Aidan Guerra as he gets tackled. The ball ricochets back towards him as he is on the ground. He gets up, recovers the ball and bolts straight past Guerra — who does nothing but fling a lazy arm out — for the break and a try.
Additionally, Tupou got caught out thrice down his edge allowing Tyrone Phillips to score his first hat-trick: twice untouched and once when Toops actually had him in line but he got past him anyway.
The Roosters now need to win 10 of 13 games to have a shot at the finals. So there’s hope, you say?
Nope. It’s false hope.
This team has won just two of 11. They’ve got their big three back and gone 1-2 in three eminently winnable games. They’ve dropped their halfback from the start of the year and shifted a second rower between the halves and backs one too many times.
It’s clear that Robbo is feeling the heat, and this loss — even with moments of spirit such as not conceding a try in basically all of Mitchell’s sin-bin period and putting together some semblance of a fightback — would do absolutely nothing to cool his hot seat.
I can’t believe we are saying this after three straight minor premierships and barely 11 games of poor performance… but yep, that seat is hot. If it wasn’t we’d have seen a full commitment to a rebuild by now and players such as Joey Manu, Jayden Nikorima and Abraham Papalii would be getting more time, rather than seeing repeated desperation moves such as shifting an out-of-form second-rower to the centres.
Man of the Match
Sin-binning aside, there was one bloke who looked repeatedly and consistently dangerous for 70 minutes versus the Bulldogs. He’s just 18 (which you may have heard the commentators repeatedly mention ALL YEAR) but he’s already putting many of his more experienced team mates to shame with some of his efforts.
Latrell Mitchell scored two tries, had one disallowed (more on that later) and another he set up disallowed, all the while providing, with some assistance from Mitchell Pearce, the only real danger the Roosters offered all game.
He had seven runs for 94 metres with four tackles, a line break, five tackle busts and the two tries to go along with the constant air of threat whenever he lurks nearby. Pearce already trusts him to hit the line and make something happen and he’s repeatedly finding the young fullback at the line.
He can probably work on his work rate a bit but that low number in runs is a by-product of a low team possession count and his team mates dropping it early in the sets.
Meanwhile, it’s clear Pearce is a little rusty but man, for a halfback he covers some ground and the lack of points wasn’t through lack of effort on his part. As the lone creative half he was everywhere today, covering each side of the ruck and probing holes repeatedly. His defence was strong and his passing largely on point — and he set up that second try to end the first half with a beautiful ball to Boyd Cordner:
JWH on report, finally, for making a tackle on time and around the hips
Did you know that Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has been back for two whole weeks and hadn’t been issued one single report unfairly in that time? NOT. ONE.
Thankfully the NRL had a meeting this week (presumably) and set about fixing that clear and egregious anomaly against the Bulldogs when they finally put the big fella on report for tackling a Moses Mbye on time and around the hips.
Order, thankfully, has been restored. I was wondering why the hell I was sick at the start of this week; I thought it might have simply been the flu going around but clearly it was a disturbance in The Force that Jared “Skywalker” Maxwell and the Match Review Committ– whoops, sorry, the Bunker, were quick to rectify. Remember, the Bunker was ordered to intervene in an on-field incident of perceived foul play ONLY if they were certain the MRC would place it on report, and if there is one play that is report worthy, it’s DEFINITELY a tackle made on time and around the hips.
Thank God for their input, otherwise the Sith-like scourge of tackling on time and around the hips could lead to a full-blown Empire forming.
Blocking… It’s horrib– I MEAN, WHAT A REVELATION!
I’ve hated this play since it became a thing in 2014. After the Roosters found the ultimate weapon to take advantage of bombing, the league and the referees decided en masse to simply look the other way when it comes to defenders changing their lines to get in the way of the attacking player chasing the bomb/chip. When I was growing up that simply act of changing the line was all that needed to happen for them to be ruled illegal and thus incapable of competing in any way on that kick.
Now? You can do this shamelessly and as the game against the Dogs revealed, there is literally nothing you can do to combat the play. Sure, you can try and go around them but they can simply keep changing their lines to block you. You could beat them to the mark but even then you have one attempt against a swarm of defenders who surround the defensive bomb-diffuser like a meathead forcefield.
But there was always one tactic that I always got frustrated that the Roosters hadn’t tried since 2014: pushing the blocker out of the way. If they change their line, surely you can push past them because then it becomes a battle for position? If not, how ELSE could one avoid blockers because it’s impossible to get around or over them, so surely the powers couldn’t rule out going through them as well?
Well, I got my answer on Sunday when Blake Ferguson, who had eyes for the ball only, pushed over Josh Morris who only had eyes only to set the block. The ball spilled and led to a Latrell Mitchell try, which even the on-field referee Maxwell called a try. Instead, it went upstairs where the Bunker overruled the on-field decision and disallowed it because Morris, who was never going to compete, was pushed over and thus denied the chance to compete which, again, he was never going to do.
So how do you beat a blocker? You don’t, that’s how. It’s the world’s first and only perfect defence. Even the Death Star had a weakness, but the blocker defence is everything the Death Star could only hope to be.
You can literally beat anything else but in the NRL, if you try and beat this in anyway you will be penalised. It’s perfect.
But we can either love it or hate it… and I for one welcome our new blocking overlords.
It’s a superb play that doesn’t form outside of the spirit of a game in which blockers are illegal everywhere else (you may have heard of this thing called “obstruction”). And shit, it’s not like it’s robbing the NRL at all of the following plays:
Stats (accrued from NRLstats.com)
Click to enlarge: