Roosters v Dragons: Five key points
In an Anzac Day classic that featured a rare weather interruption, the control of the Dragons proved the deciding factor in the 14-12 nail-biter. Here are five of the talking points to emerge from the Red V's sixth consecutive win.
WATCH: Highlights from another Dragons win
WATCH: Dragons post-match press conference
WATCH: Roosters post-match press conference
Waerea-Hargreaves: I was always playing
Happy Benji unfazed by Kiwis snub
The mother of all storms
The day dawned brightly as the weather gods smiled upon Anzac Day dawn services and the clear skies lasted to early afternoon, but black clouds looked threatening by the time of the 4pm kick-off. The heavens well and truly opened early in the contest resulting in stunning scenes of rain so heavy players could barely see each other and the ball. Lightning cracked around the ground and hail started falling. Aptly-named Dragons hooker Mitch Rein played the rainy conditions well, stealing a try from dummy half, before the officials decided to take the players from the field until the awful conditions abated.
By the time the weather cleared and players warmed up again, the full delay was close to half an hour and half-time had been reduced – with the agreement of both coaches – to eight minutes. The original break came with the Dragons up 10-0 and enjoying the momentum while the half-time break seemed to favour the Tricolours, who had hit back to 10-6.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor joked the players just spent the layoff trying to keep warm.
"[Assistant coach Ian Millward] was sitting next to me, he coached in England for a decade and he said he's never seen anything like it. We'll have to go to the books for that one," McGregor said.
"We didn't need the break to start with, I thought we were getting a roll on when we jumped to a 10-nil lead. That break probably spoiled that roll. When we came back out we started well then we leaked a try through that kick. We probably needed a break there. We regrouped at half time and came again."
"Get off the ground"
Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was spoken to by the referees for yelling at prone Dragons centre Euan Aitken to get off the ground after the youngster was hit by a high shot from Roosters forward Dylan Napa in the 61st minute.
It was a key moment in the game; Napa was placed on report for the second time in the game and the Dragons took two points from a penalty kick which proved crucial in the final wash-up.
After the loss, Roosters coach Trent Robinson unleashed on what he suggested was an epidemic of players lying down to milk penalties.
"Jared got talked to for going over after and saying 'stand up'. Young kid in our game [Aitken], playing great footy, and he lies down on that play. You guys like watching that in our game, are you happy with that, is that our sport?" he fired at the post-match press conference.
"I didn't think he got hit high. I think we all saw it... we saw replays, he hit him across the chest, so Jared went over and, as he should, told him to get off the ground. That's not how you play our sport... Players have come out and said they do it because it's being allowed to happen."
McGregor said he thought it was a high shot and after the game Aitken insisted he had been rattled by the hit.
Benji kicks it home
After a couple of suspect kicks early on, Dragons playmaker Benji Marshall had the ball on a string in the wet conditions. Long kicks found space regularly, turning the Roosters around. He gave Roosters fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck a torrid night. He forced numerous goal line dropouts. He drilled it into touch when his side were protecting a lead. Both coaches credited the Dragons playmaker's kicking game as a deciding factor after the game.
"It's hard to single out anyone but I thought our kicking game in the second half was outstanding," McGregor said.
"I think that's what turned the game around. He's certainly playing good footy, him and Gaz [five-eighth Gareth Widdop] starting to get their combination going and everyone's enjoying each other's company out there which is important. They strung a few things together.
"He's playing with a lot of composure which is really pleasing late in his career and I'm enjoying that in the coach's box. I'm enjoying what he's doing."
Robinson said he thought the Dragons kicked really well throughout the game.
"We didn't defend their kicks very well, they found a lot of space, then also we didn't execute our kicks and the execution of our plays on the end of that," Robinson said.
"They ended up turning good field position for us into a positive. We turned some really good defensive sets into a negative from the way we defended some of those kicks."
For his part, Marshall told NRL.com after the game he'd simply between trying to keep the ball away from dangerman Tuivasa-Sheck.
Pick Dugan for Australia
Dragons fullback Josh Dugan had yet another understated performance, playing a key role at the back. Dugan has been organising the side's defence well, doing all the clean-up work and proverbial "one percenters" right, and putting his body on the line.
With plenty of recent Kangaroos backs out of the frame (the long list of unavailables includes Brett and Josh Morris, Josh Mansour, Darius Boyd, and potentially Billy Slater) McGregor said Dugan deserves a spot somewhere in the side to face the Kiwis on May 1.
"Josh Dugan's at the back there is doing a really good job with our [defence], he's probably not getting mentioned much but I'd like to see him get mentioned in the Australian side. He's done enough to find a spot somewhere," McGregor said.
The Roosters prop was initially expected to miss more than a month with a pec strain he picked up last week but as someone with close family ties to the armed forces and a personal investment in Anzac Day he did everything he could to get right and convinced Robinson to take a chance on him despite the risk of further injury.
"He told us all week he was going to play. We honestly thought he was going to be out for a while, we didn't think he was going to get the strength back that quickly," Robinson said.
"Three physio [sessions] a day, it's a big day for Jared family-wise as well. He worked hard and he got back into it. I think we made the decision after the final run yesterday. He looked like [he came through ok], I'd say he'd be sore. [He] played long minutes but as far as I know he didn't make it worse as far as I know which was a risk."