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Roosters' Road To The Finals

Ben Blaschke NRL.com Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 2:35 PM

James Maloney might not have the hype of Sonny Bill Williams, but is just as crucial a player to the Roosters' fortunes. Copyright: NRL Photos

1. An opening night to forget
With so many new faces in the Roosters’ outfit in 2013, it was always going to take some time to get going and that proved to be the case as they fell to a 28-10 loss to rivals South Sydney in the opening game of the season. The Roosters couldn’t match it with a slick Rabbitohs unit who dominated either side of halftime. However, there were some signs of what was to come with James Maloney crossing for an early try and Sonny Bill Williams adding his first try back in the NRL in the dying stages.

2. Roosters open account v Warriors
It wasn’t the prettiest of games but the Roosters notched a valuable two competition points and gained plenty of confidence with a grinding 16-14 win over the Warriors in Auckland in Round 2. Although they were forced to repel a late fightback from the home side after leading 16-0 midway through the second half, Trent Robinson’s men showed what they were capable of with star centre Michael Jennings impressing out wide.

3. SBW announces: 'I'm back'
Sonny Bill Williams had shown glimpses of his best during the opening three rounds but it was the Roosters’ 50-0 demolition of Parramatta in Round 4 where he really announced that he was back. Having scored an early try as his side took a 22-0 halftime lead, he produced a pass that would soon become his trade mark after the break with a perfectly placed cut-out ball for winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to score.

4. Maloney and Pearce combine
While SBW attracted most of the headlines in the lead-up to the 2013 season, perhaps their most important buy was five-eighth James Maloney. The former Warriors playmaker immediately made his presence known once the season kicked off and his combination with Mitchell Pearce would prove lethal. In fact, the two complement one another perfectly. Maloney, with his deadly running game, dramatically eased the pressure on Pearce from day one, leaving him to focus on guiding the Roosters around the park. He led all five-eighths for line busts in the regular rounds, his 16 five  more than Canterbury’s Josh Reynolds.

5. Roosters put opponents to the sword
It took them a few weeks to get going, but once they clicked the Roosters quickly began to pile on the points against their hapless opponents. It all began with that 50-0 thumping of Parramatta in Round 4 – the first of a staggering nine games in which they scored 30 points or more. Their biggest wins also included a 40-0 shutout of Cronulla in Round 19, a 42-6 demolition of Penrith two weeks later and a 56-14 belting of Wests Tigers in Round 23.

6. Defence impregnable
As lethal as the Roosters’ attack was, their defence was even better. Between Rounds 3 and 6 they kept their opponents scoreless on three separate occasions and did it twice more during the season in a truly remarkable show of determination. They also kept opponents to less than 10 points four more times. They conceded a total of just 325 points in their 24 games at an average of just 13.5 per game.

7. Pearce bounces back from Origin
Devastated by a poor performance in the third and deciding State of Origin game as Queensland made it eight series wins in a row, Mitchell Pearce quickly showed that he wouldn’t let that loss ruin his season with a stunning individual performance against Cronulla just a few days later. Pearce produced three try assists, taking just two minutes to send Boyd Cordner over with a superbly times pass and throwing an even better one for Cordner to score his second on the stroke of halftime. It was the perfect confidence boost ahead of the run home to the finals.

8. Penalties a problem
Despite their hugely successful season, coach Trent Robinson highlighted some time ago the number of penalties his side was giving away and how dangerous that could prove for them come finals time. The Roosters have conceded a whopping 189 penalties this season – 23 more than any other side – and it is the fact that they err in so many areas that is of most concern. They have conceded 30 penalties for holding down and 26 for a hand in the play-the-ball as well as 23 for being inside the 10 and 19 for high tackles.

9. Late surge brings minor prize
The end of the representative period ushered problems for two of their premiership rivals in South Sydney and Melbourne – but not so the Roosters who embarked on an eight-game winning run that saw them overtake the Rabbitohs and move to the top of the NRL ladder. Having trailed Souths by four points after 18 rounds, the Roosters soared into the competition lead just three weeks later on their way to the minor premiership.

10. Momentum into Finals
The Roosters looked to have the minor premiership sealed until two late slip-ups with losses to Cronulla and the Gold Coast in Rounds 24 and 25. That left a date with the Rabbitohs in Round 26 to determine who would claim the 2013 minor premiership. While many predicted that the Roosters had lost their mojo at the worst possible time of year, they turned it on when needed most with a brilliant, unanswered 14-points-second-half performance to over-run their old rivals and score a thrilling 24-12 win as halves James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce stood tall.