Roosters v Panthers: Five key points
Mansour's return from off-season surgery, the Tricolours' bench and Ferguson's stunning showing were just some of the talking points from the Roosters' Round 3 win over Penrith on Monday night.
Report: Roosters down relilient Panthers
Coaches back video referral system
Ferguson's energey ignites Roosters
Mansour back with a bang for Penrith
Napa's growing role boosts Roosters options
Blake Ferguson is back, in defence and attack
It was in August 2013 that Blake Ferguson was at the peak of his powers at this very stadium, terrorising the Roosters and scoring two tries wearing a Raiders jersey.
Things went off the rails for Ferguson since then but his performance against the Panthers surely signaled the rebirth of the lanky centre.
He had two tries, three line breaks and six tackle busts in a scintillating performance on the edge for the Tricolours, producing several key reads in defence as well.
"He's awesome," captain Mitch Pearce said after the match.
"I notice it more in defence, he's a really aggressive defender... everyone knows how good he is in attack but I think his defence is awesome as well."
Coach Trent Robinson was similarly glowing.
"He's worked so hard to play for us and then Pearcey and Jimmy gave him a bit more space to (allow him to play) his style and we got the rewards tonight," he said.
Josh Mansour is an absolute beast
In his return from off-season surgery, Mansour made a mockery of the concept of match fitness with a first half that featured an absurd 12 tackle busts. Yes, 12 tackle busts in his first half of football for the season against one of the best defensive sides in the competition.
It was an epic first half of footy that ended with the Kangaroos winger flying high to claim a cross-field kick and set up Jamal Idris to score the Panthers' first try.
After the match Mansour played down his explosive comeback match.
"I thought my carries were pretty pleasing, first game back I am happy with myself but I can't get a big head, it's the first game back and we've got a long season ahead of us," he said.
"I just want to continue my good form and stay consistent throughout the year."
Do the Roosters have the most effective bench in the NRL?
From the 30th minute to the 50th, the Roosters had all four of their bench players on the field, with Kiwi internationals Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Moa warming the bench, alongside Toa Samoa lock Isaac Liu and starting hooker Matt McIlwrick.
Their replacements – young giants Kane Evans and Dylan Napa, early-season revelation Siua Taukeiaho and reliable utility Mitch Aubusson – added a tremendous combination of spark, energy, aggression and reliability in defence.
It's an outstanding bench and one that should allow the Tricolours to be a genuine 80-minute team in 2015.
After the game Robinson agreed his bench had played a key role in the victory.
"They were good. Napa was probably the standout there, that was a long stint, long minutes, then to come back out at the end, big plays – really big moment for 'Naps'. I left him for a bit longer and he keeps getting the job done."
The Panthers are the real deal even without star players on the pitch
With the omission of five-eighth Jamie Soward from this top four clash due to back surgery, few expected the previously undefeated Panthers to match the impressive Roosters.
However they stepped it up to go toe-to-toe with the star-studded Tricolours outfit, firming their billing as one of the teams to beat in the NRL in 2015.
Even as the Roosters started to gain the ascendency through the middle of the pitch (with James Segeyaro spending time off the field having a gashed lip seen to), the boys from the foot of the mountains hung in there and continued to give it their all in an effort which pleased coach Ivan Cleary.
"It was encouraging," Cleary said after the match, "a completely different game to what we have played so far this year."
The video referral system is not broken
Despite the usual fanfare after a controversial refereeing decision, the two men who know best downplayed concerns that the whole video refereeing system is bust.
Speaking after the match, Trent Robinson, who was the beneficiary of the controversial no-try call on Dallin Watene-Zalezniak said he prefers this system because it gives the referees confidence in their ability to make a live call.
"I think the system's really good actually, I think it gives confidence back to the refs and they back their live vision," he said.
Meanwhile, Penrith coach Ivan Clearly also backed the system despite not agreeing with the decision in this instance.
"I like the system – well if you've got to have a video I like the system – I've never really been a fan of the video myself, because you don't necessarily seem to get it right all of the time.
"But I've got nothing wrong with the system, I think it's decent. I like the fact that referees make calls," Cleary said.