Review: Roosters 32, Tigers 18. The hoodoo lives, but at what cost?

Sydney Roosters 32 (Mitchell, Tupou, Ferguson, Guerra, Watson tries, Taukeiaho 6 goals) bt Wests Tigers 18 (Simona, Nofoaluma, Tedesco tries; Moses 3 goals) at Allianz Stadium.

This website made a big song and dance in the match preview about a hoodoo which the Roosters hold over the Tigers. In the past nine games the Roosters have won eight games, by at least 14 points, and the hoodoo stemmed back to a certain field goal from Braith Anasta back in 2010. This website also sought assistance from the league gods to preserve the hoodoo through preserving Robbie Farah for action, as the Tigers hooker has a pretty sweet record this year: the team is 1-6 when he plays and 4-1 when he doesn’t.

So what do the league gods do? They try their hardest to break the hoodoo, by any shady means necessary. They took Boyd Cordner and Mitchell Pearce out of the line-up. They also took Robbie Farah out of the equation.

As if that wasn’t enough, they opened up the floodgates unlike ever before, restricting the attendance at a home game to just 3,622 fans.

But the Roosters raced to an early 12-0 lead. So the league gods took Isaac Liu from the field with an apparent ankle injury. The Tigers scored. Then the Roosters scored again, so the gods removed Latrell Mitchell, the game’s most exciting youngster, from the equation. The Tigers scored immediately after because the league gods also took Blake Ferguson’s brain away to the tune of him playing the ball to deliberately milk a penalty that never came.

At 18-12 at half time, and with the club now down two players and with Jackson Hastings struggling along with what appeared to be a rib injury, the gods looked to have had their way. But the Roosters, thanks to a superior performance from their front row (more on them later) managed to actually blow the game out in the end through two second half tries, superb kicking in the conditions and particularly measured play from their spine to record another 13+ win against their whipping boys.

So you know what this tells me? The league gods are powerless.

Yes, I said it. We spend an inordinate amount of time praying to the league gods, hoping that players make it through or that the conditions hold up or that the referees call a fair fight.

But ultimately, the deity that dominates the league landscape and pulls the strings is the league devil.

It’s the league devil who deals in hoodoos and voodoo. The league devil has the final say and nothing the league gods do has any sway. It’s why we consistently lose to the Titans and the Sharks — we do everything save for sacrificing a goat to the league gods (well, as far as I know anyway) to sway their hand and ensure a victory against the trend of history, yet we continue to lose as the Tigers do to us.

So I for one welcome the league devil on my shoulder. Bring it on.

Man of the Match. 

It’s hard to go past a dude who ran it for 254 metres off 23 runs and set the platform from the jump with an insatiable eight runs in the first 13 minutes of the match — and that’s why Jared Waerea-Hargreaves takes home the 26 Rounds Man of the Match award and $25 gift voucher to Dick Smith, only to be used in-store.

JWH

Source: Twitter.

At the half, the big fella had racked up an immense 13 runs for 154 metres in about 33 minutes — and threw in an offload for good measure. But it’s the quality of the runs and when he makes them that continually enables JWH to stand out in a crowded prop competition. He had at least two sets in the first 10 minutes in which he took it up twice, and his metres-after-impact stats would be through the roof. Defensively he sets the tone in the middle including on one occasion in the first half when he (along with his captain) drove a Tigers attacker back into the in-goal to force a repeat set, and never fails to rattle a cage or two — sadly, it’s this fact that may see him sit for a few weeks thanks to a reported tackle in the second half (personally I don’t think it was bad and the Roosters should contest it if it goes to the judiciary).

The guy is relentless and saves his best performances it seems for when the Roosters have their backs against the wall — as in, say, when they lose their halfback and star second-rower during the week.

Not far behind him was his front row partner, Dylan Napa. The big effin ranga was almost as dominant in one of his better performances all year, racking up 201 metres off 17 runs with 24 tackles — and he too was dominant in the first half with 11 runs and 148 metres (he may also face a stint on the sidelines for a high shot on James Tedesco in the game’s opening moments).

It was perhaps the best front row pair performance of the year, albeit against an inferior competitor. Jake Friend, too was not far off with a superb performance (his last play tactic to run it and get caught in one instance notwithstanding). A try assist:

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…and a hockey assist (a pass that led to an assist):

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…along with a great kicking game in the wet (seven for 230 metres) and 33 tackles alleviated a lot of the pressure on a halves combo that would have been feeling it — especially the guy below.

Jackson, back for the future? 

Say what you want about the kid, or let the rumours do the talking for you if you wish: he’s cocky and bordering on arrogant. A few fans can’t wait to see the back of him.

But he busts his arse, as blog pal @RealRoosterH said on Twitter:

Frikkin’ ay, doggie.  Frikkin’ ay. In a year in which this happened:

Maybe we could do with a player who cares a little too much, or is a little too confident — attitude is something that can be worked on, reduced or fostered, depending on the need. The kid is just 20 years old, after all, and does have rugby league ability regardless of what people will have you believe — and this game went a long way to showing what that ability is.

His long kicking game needs a lot of work, but aside from that he had a couple of beautiful short balls in the first half and one of which led to the game’s first try to Latrell Mitchell:

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His short kicking game and ability to get the repeat set is a talent that is ahead of his years. And his defence for a half is exceptional, a gift he showed again despite the conditions — 18 tackles, four one-on-one and just two misses for a 90% completion; in comparison fellow wunderkind and the apparent player to replace him in the halves, Mitch Moses, had 21 tackles, two one-on-one and four misses for a completion rate of 84 per cent.

He came out during the week and said he was going to be here this year and next, and maybe being dropped is the kick up the arse his reported attitude needed. Against the Tigers he looked patient and seemed to click better with his team-mates.

Whether he stays in the halves when Pearce returns is another question, but injuries are likely to at least keep the neophyte in first grade. Which brings us to out next conundrum:

If Latrell is out, who is fullback? And who plays front row??

Everyone’s heart skipped a bit when Latrell went off to end the half with what appeared to be a knee injury. He didn’t return, and potentially faces a spell in the Roosters’ growing MASH unit at Allianz. Yes, blame me all you want for tempting fate by teasing the league gods, but dammit, what’s done is done. The question is, what happens next?

There’s a few options should the rookie be out for an extended period. One, move Ferguson back there, and that seems the worst option considering the failure it was in round one. And doing so would mean the Roosters would have to re-promote Joe Burgess or rush Shaun Kenny-Dowall back from injury.

So then, what?

Do they leave Connor Watson — who came in late and played fullback in the second half — back there? The youngster had a mixed bag playing out of position, with two dropped bombs (albeit in horrendous conditions) but a try to seal the match while providing some real energy in the line?

Or they shift Hastings back there? Before you laugh, he was Man of the Match in the u20s Kangaroos vs New Zealand test at fullback once. That move would allow the Roosters to play Pearce and Matterson — assuming the halfback is back next week.

Otherwise, it means Watson can be back in the halves…or on the bench as the utility Robbo apparently craves, and bring back in Jayden Nikorima who just returned from a hammy injury (although reportedly tweaked it versus Wyong according to lower grade doyen @Ando4285) to play halfback alongside Ryan Matterson.

Or, pending his health, do they put Nikorima back there? He’s a utility who can play the position, and the shift back there would allow him to see more of the game, lighten his defensive workload and pop up in gaps where needed only, relinquishing the playmaking burden to others.

Are you confused? Lost? I am too. It’s times like this I’d hate to be a coach… and that doesn’t even factor in that the club will still be without Cordner, potentially without Pearce or SKD, and probably without their starting front row due to suspension and their lock, Liu, who was carried from the field.

These league gods are petty little shits, aren’t they?

Passing the storm and cold burger trials.  

Attending this game, in the end, paid off, but getting out of the apartment was a two-hour decision. Ultimately, this writer figured he’d been inside all weekend and better get out and brave the conditions, and apparently so did 3,621 other fans. It was a sea of blue seats and blue lips as people crammed together to watch a surprisingly entertaining game.

And to the Oporto people who charged me 16 bucks for a lukewarm burger and chips, cheers, you made the experience strangely more exhilarating when we won. It was like a trial or something: would you travel through horrendous weather, suffer a broken umbrella and eat a cold Bondi Burger if it meant the Roosters would win?

I’d happily do it all again. Though if given the option I’ll take a warm burger next time, please.

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If you squint you can see that mythical creature known as a crowd on the other side. Credit 26Rounds.

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Yep, smallest crowd I’ve ever been a part of — but it was a great atmosphere despite the conditions, akin to the game the Roosters played vs the Titans two years ago on a Monday in equally shitty conditions. It was… an experience. Credit 26Rounds.

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Sadly we lost a lot of good umbrellas out there. Credit 26Rounds.

Stats (accrued from NRLstats.com)

Click to enlarge:

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