Dragons v Roosters: Five key points
The Roosters did just enough to hold off a fast-finishing Dragons despite having seemed in control of proceedings for most of the match. Here are five talking points from the Tricolours' 19-14 win.
Kenny-Dowall a true club great
Veteran winger or centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall etched his name further into Roosters folklore with an outstanding two-try effort on the Roosters' right flank.
The 27-year-old Kiwi's 104th and 105th tries in red, white and blue take him past club legend Bill Mullins (104 tries) into outright second place on the club's try scoring list behind only recently-retired captain Anthony Minichiello (139 tries in 302 games).
Teammates praised his efforts after the game while coach Trent Robinson described his contribution to the win as "huge".
"Shaun, to re-sign with the club for another two years, [he's a] great clubman. I think the negotiation lasted a day then he goes on and plays like he does, that's the player you want in your club," Robinson said.
"Very proud of Shaun and what he's achieved from a backpacker from New Zealand. Very proud as someone that's watched him from afar then coached him, it's very impressive."
Roosters co-captain Mitchell Pearce said Kenny-Dowall didn't always get the praise he deserves.
"He's had a great career and he's only 27, I think he plays his 200th game this year or next year... probably by the time he finishes put your money on it that he's going to break Mini's record there," Pearce said.
"I'm super proud of him, he's such a hard worker and a bit of an unsung hero for us. Not from the guys but probably the outside... He's a special player."
Dragons' Monday-itis just gets worse
The Dragons will be hoping when the draw is released for the final six rounds of the season they don't pick up any more Monday night games after continuing their Monday curse in Round 15.
The Dragons' stunning record this season now reads eight games for eight wins on Friday, Saturday and Sunday games, and five games for five losses on Mondays.
A somewhat bemused Dragons coach Paul McGregor said he'd be happy not to play on a Monday again but also noted the quality of opposition in those five losses.
"I'm not a fan at the moment, zero and five," he said.
"You've got to look at the teams we've played on the Monday night too. We played Souths, Roosters, Melbourne, three good sides there. Canterbury, Tigers, there's some good sides there. I'd rather see the end of it."
Halfback Benji Marshall was at a loss to explain it, saying the side's preparation doesn't change.
"It's the same for us, we do the same preparation every week," Marshall said. "Five days out from a game we do the same thing, three days from a game we do the same thing, it's not like we've done anything different, it just seems to be we've played a lot of top four teams in those Monday night games and unfortunately they've got the better of us."
No props? No worries
The Roosters were without their first-choice props Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (calf) and Sam Moa (suspension) and for most sides losing two Test props would be a massive blow, but on Monday night rest of the Tricolours' forward pack stood up and filled the gap impressively.
Queensland Origin hopeful Dylan Napa did his chances of a Suncorp debut on July 8 no harm with a typically robust display, rattling Jake Marketo with one huge shot and lifting late in the piece with the game on the line, finishing with 27 bruising tackles and 138 metres from 17 strong carries. Issac Liu's move to prop from lock was seamless and produced similar numbers while Sio Siua Taukeiaho's move to the starting side yielded an absurd 190 metres from just 17 carries and former Warrior Suaia Matagi's second game in Roosters kit was again productive.
"We got a lot of confidence out of last week and the depth of our squad, the way the guys came in and performed over there [in New Zealand with Origin players missing]," Robinson said.
"Dylan Napa and Isaac Liu doing the starting role, both very competent props. They stepped into that well. It'd be nice to have those guys back at some stage but it shows guys are going to have to work hard for their position as well."
Dragons' momentum snuffed out
The Dragons have now lost two games in a row for the first time since Rounds 1 and 2 this year and McGregor said a loss of fluency over the Origin/bye period was a factor.
Prior to the past two losses the Dragons – praised throughout the year for their best-in-the-league defence despite a spluttering attack – had racked up their two biggest scores of the year. Their best effort, a 42-6 win over Cronulla in Round 12, actually came after their first bye but with two games in the past four rounds and players going away to Origin the team's consistency was always going to be tested.
"It doesn't help us," McGregor said of the disruptions.
"We need to play regular footy and be around each other a fair bit to get what we need to get done before we play.
"Our preparation this week was good, it's just that we've only played a couple of games in the last four weeks. It certainly doesn't help and the boys being away with Origin is just a part of it.
"Again, after the Canterbury game [in Round 13 prior to last week's bye] we probably needed that week off just because we had a few blokes carrying injuries but it certainly doesn't help your football in your attack. We're a side that we seem to get better as we go along and enjoy that real grindy part of the game, training tough to play pretty."
Roger's fancy footwork saves the day
Known for his freakish efforts in stepping his way to the opposition tryline, it was an equally freakish effort to get out of his own in-goal from Roosters fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck that saved the day for his side.
The Dragons were coming home with a wet sail after a length-of-the-field try against the run of play in the 72nd minute and were threatening to score almost every set after that.
After surging downfield, a possibly ill-advised kick from Jason Nightingale on the fourth tackle in the 75th minute looked even worse when the man it was meant for, Benji Marshall, ran straight into the referee as he began his chase.
But with the kick pulling up inches inside the touch-in-goal line and the pack closing in it suddenly looked a stroke of genius.
That is, until Tuivasa-Sheck swept the ball up, spun on a dime leaving Will Matthews clutching at thin air, then scorched up a short side so narrow as to be almost non-existent, wrong-footing Nightingale in the process, to be tackled five metres back in the field of play.
It prompted Fox Sports caller Warren Smith to label him 'Houdini' and after the game the play hadn't been forgotten by Robinson.
"There were some very big plays the last five minutes there to finish it off. Sometimes you can go a little bit tight and try and hold on but I thought the way Napa stepped in to a couple of those tackles changed the energy for us in the back end then also Roger's fancy footwork saved the day as well," Robinson said.