Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce is arguably in the best form of his career, and as much as he was all smiles after his match-winning turn on Thursday night, he insists – unsurprisingly – it is a result of his teammates hitting form as well.
Pearce set up all three of his side's tries in a 22-18 win over Souths on Thursday night; his jagged run set up the first, a second-half line break put Anthony Minichiello over for another, and an incredibly deft kick – from off balance after a loose pass out of dummy half from debutant Jackson Hastings – hit the upright for James Maloney to score.
As if that wasn't enough, his length-of-the-field chase to track down a flying Greg Inglis shortly before halftime proved crucial, and a precision late touch-finder when his side desperately needed it and Souths were roaring home was the icing on the cake.
It prompted veteran caller Peter Sterling to describe it as the most complete performance of Pearce's career, and it's hard to argue – despite the fact Pearce finished 2013 as a grand final-winning halfback.
"I've been working really hard, that's about all it is I think. The team's going well, everyone's playing good footy, it feels like me and Jimmy [Maloney] are starting to control the game a bit better," Pearce said when asked about his form.
Asked whether he thought the game was the most complete of his career he was noncommittal, but agreed the 10 minutes of dominance early in the second half "felt pretty good".
"That period there where we put on a couple of tries it felt pretty good. Sonny [Bill Williams] made those breaks – the middle [players] were the ones that created the space so it was good from the whole team."
On his long-range try-saver, Pearce just said "I always try and chase those sort of things and see what happens".
"I sort of started making gains on him and somehow got him. Even once I got there I thought he'd throw me off.
"At the time you're not thinking much, you're just doing your best to chase, it's just one of those things."
Again doing his best to deflect praise, Pearce suggested an earlier tackle on Inglis from skipper Anthony Minichiello was "the tackle of the game" and more important to the team at the time.
Even his brilliantly recovery from a poor dummy half pass to set up a try was played down.
"Sometimes errors like that make the kick easier just because the line's a bit scattered. Thankfully Jimmy was there and we got the try," he said.
Of the team overall, Pearce said it was nice to be coming in to form at the right time of the year, and credited the squad for being able to keep the wins ticking over even back when they weren't playing as well.
"Everyone was saying we were flying under the radar – we weren't playing great but we were still winning," he said.
"Lots of sides are in this position but our form's probably got a bit more attention. We lost to Cronulla and Newcastle but besides that we were ticking over the wins. That's all you can do – it's nice to come into form at the right time of the year."
He couldn't put his finger on why the side wasn't clicking as well earlier, suggesting subconsciously they may have not been as committed as they could be.
"The last four weeks we've improved but there's a big month ahead of us, Round 26 doesn't mean anything if we don't win.
"I think if you've done it before there's a confidence there that you believe you can do it. The boys are confident at the moment, everyone's buzzing."