Cowboys v Roosters: Five key points
Following the Roosters dominant performance in North Queensland on Saturday night, here are five key points we took from the game.
Roosters start season with winning mentality
The execution may not have been there, but the effort certainly was. In spite of a horrid night handling the Steeden (20 errors), what impressed Roosters coach Trent Robinson most was his side's defensive commitment.
"The desperation defence was impressive. I thought there were other things to improve on but definitely the hunger to stop a try and to not allow them to get over the line was there, as it definitely needed to be in the second half," he said.
"It was the balance of the game – we could have been a bit more ruthless with the ball but we just had to defend, we pride ourselves on that and that's what the boys did. They came up here and they defended their line well and that's what got us the rewards there in the end."
The Roosters were always billed as a top four team this season but the impression we get is this is one team hell-bent on nothing less than premiership success.
The Cowboys need to take a look in the mirror
They were firing on all cylinders coming into Round 1. They looked potent, quick and powerful in the pre-season, yet it all came unstuck as the Cowboys opened the turnstiles for the Roosters to frolic through for four-pointer after four-pointer. Coach Paul Green wouldn't entertain discussion about devotion to the cause, instead pointing toward a lack of pressure as a reason for the 28-4 defeat.
"Our guys are committed, there is no doubt about that but we just didn't tackle well tonight. We failed to build any sort of pressure. In that first half early on we fought our way back, got an opportunity down there and then off a dropout, dropped it off a kick," he said.
The 17,123 fans in attendance however, could tell a vastly different story – one in which North Queensland played with a distinct lack of energy, which showed up primarily in defensive line speed and play-the-ball. Considering the intense hype coming into the year, Thurston and his troops would be best served with a more wholehearted 80-minute performance against Newcastle in seven days time.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is in for a big year
There is no secret the 21-year-old has sizeable shoes to fill after the recent retirement of Anthony Minichiello, but if the first game is any indication, Sydney's No.1 jersey is in safe hands. There was little question of Tuivasa-Sheck's attacking prowess from the fullback position after the two custodians switched roles in attack throughout 2014, but the doubts lied in defence where communication and leadership are needed to come to the fore. Along with the 191 running metres on Saturday night, head coach Robinson was very happy with his young gun's organisation in defence.
"There was a lot of work to be done from Rodge, he had to be all over the park and [it is a] tough position, fullback, these days... often the best fullbacks are measured on their defensive organisation and he had to do a lot tonight and he did a really good job, I thought it was a great start."
Ben Hannant is the new Ashton Sims
One of the better stories to come out of North Queensland's turbulent 2014 was the form spike of Ashton Sims as the departing prop picked up the slack for James Tamou who was labouring with a longstanding neck injury. Sims stepped up to become one of the dominant forwards at the Cowboys and while Hannant may not be the type to start spotfires every 10 minutes, he is the dependable force that the Cowboys can rely upon through the middle as they ease Tamou back into a full workload. Hannant showed a willingness to do the hard yards and inspire his side on Saturday night, with most of his work done in the early stages as the Cowboys were under the pump. He ran strongly with 118 run metres from 12 hit-ups and equalled the team-high in tackles with 31.
Do cuts need to be made already in North Queensland?
Regardless of whether Paul Green makes selection cuts for Round 2, a tone will be set within the playing group. Does he lead with the carrot and encourage his current 17 to turn up the heat, or does he lead with the stick and turn it up himself? In such a talent-laden squad with high competition for spots, something might have to give on Tuesday when teams are announced.