One of the most enthralling games of the season showed the value of a villain, the mental strength of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and why this truly is the greatest game of all.
Rugby league is awesome!
After two teams slugged it out for 79 minutes we witnessed the most frantic final minute of any game through the first five rounds. Roosters five-eighth James Maloney launched a field goal attempt from 35 metres out that sailed towards the black dot before Lachlan Maranta leapt high to seemingly bat the ball back only for it to be recovered by the Roosters. They then lost it, the Broncos broke away, they lost it and Mitchell Pearce had another shot at a match-winner that never threatened after being charged down by desperate Broncos defenders. At that point Maranta fumbled the ball briefly 10 metres out in front of his posts before regathering and the game went into overtime. There could have been a knock-on or even an offside penalty that went unchecked but it was all wonderfully chaotic and had fans gasping, shouting and poised inches off the front of their seats. The Broncos won and Ben Hunt the hero with an extraordinary try 20 seconds from the end of the first period of golden point but rugby league was the real winner. And the 35,630 people who were there to witness it.
"It was a hell of a game. The effort was there from both teams, it was a fair battle in the forwards and the outside backs played some good footy from both teams," said Roosters coach Trent Robinson. "It was a fair fight tonight from both teams, that's a positive. We played some really good footy tonight but very disappointing obviously to miss the field goal pre the 80 minutes and then had a couple of chances in decent range and we just didn't ice it."
These two teams will meet again
The 2015 Telstra Premiership draw dictates that these two teams will meet again at Allianz Stadium in Round 24 but that may not be the last time they face off against each other given the quality of the game on Friday night. It was as though Origin had come early to Suncorp Stadium as errors were forced by crunching defence from both sides and not fundamental handling errors. It somehow superseded the spectacle these two teams put on 12 months earlier and gave Broncos captain Corey Parker belief that his side can match it with the competition's best.
"The build-up all week, those guys coming off the back of a loss, we knew they were going to come up here and really stick it to us," said Parker. "We were prepared for a game like that and that was probably one of the toughest physical, 80-minute games we've played this year.
"We've got a group of men there at the moment that are prepared to pay the price for one another. Tonight was a great example of hanging tough."
Roger may just be worth every NZ dollar
Less than 48 hours after announcing that he would be leaving the club to join the Warriors at season's end, Roosters fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck came out and in the space of 40 minutes racked up 118 running metres, four tackle busts, two line-break assists, a try assist and an offload. In 85 minutes of footy he ran for 283 metres from a game-high 29 runs and in the process earned even greater admiration from his coach.
"I don't think there's any doubt what Roger's going to put in and play for. I don't think anybody doubted that. He's a fighter and he proved that tonight. He'll be doing that all year," Robinson said.
"I know that it did affect him, the week, as far as telling the guys that he wasn't going to be there. That's an emotional hit but Roger is pretty special in putting things in some right places and how to focus on what he needs to do and that proved that tonight. Over the last couple of weeks, going through the decision that he's had to go through and negotiations and playing like he did last weekend and this weekend, it's a credit to him. He's a fighter and we'll need him for the rest of the year that's for sure."
Every game needs a villain
They found each other in the early exchanges and went at it for the entire 85 minutes and the crowd of more than 35,000 lapped up every encounter between Sam Thaiday and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Whichever side of the fence you resided on – or you were an impartial observer enjoying the view from the middle – there was someone to cheer and someone to hate and it was absolutely compelling. It never got nasty but brought a semi-final like intensity to the contest; the only disappointment was that neither player felt like talking about with the media post-game.
"The good thing is it always boils over a bit at the start but then it takes a lot of energy out of both teams and both players but there was a lot in tonight's game," said Roosters coach Trent Robinson. "It's hard for us, we lost. You're disappointed, you get angry, you get upset, you get all those emotions but it was a very good footy game."
Added Broncos coach Wayne Bennett: "Sam was wonderful; it just reminds you about tackle technique. Corey was wonderful too. They've both been outstanding for the club. We were hitting through the middle, the fans loved it and the opposition didn't like it at all.
"The crowd loved him and I loved him but they were all great behind him. You can't do that stuff by yourself. If he wasn't whacking them Corey was, I thought it was Josh McGuire's best game tonight, Matt Gillett and Alex Glenn on the edges, I thought they all stood up."
Jake Friend will be back playing 80 minutes soon
His coach joked that he refused to play 80 minutes in his earlier than anticipated return from a shoulder reconstruction but it's clear that the Roosters are glad to have Jake Friend back on the paddock. Friend was only confirmed to be playing an hour before kick-off and after coming on for Matt McIlwrick in the 20th minute proceeded to play out the remainder of the match, making an astonishing 51 tackles.
"The shoulder was fine but the lungs were struggling a bit in a few spots," was Friend's brief assessment.
His coach was somewhat more effusive, indicating he could be back playing 80 minutes as early as next week against the Storm.
"He was awesome. There was one tackle there tonight that I don't think anyone in our team would have made except for Friendy," Robinson said. "It was right at the end on Milford, inside ball and Jake had to hang onto him long enough. He probably would have gone through the last couple of weeks but Jake was there, it was a big play. From not having played at all to go and play in a game like that and do what he did...
"I was hoping he'd play 80 but he said he couldn't tonight. I'll have to ask him again and hopefully I'll get a different response to what I got this week. It won't be long."