Wests Tigers v Roosters: Five key points
A willing but error-riddled Wests Tigers performance never quite seemed like it was going to be enough against a Roosters side that eventually clicked into gear in the second half at ANZ Stadium on Friday night. Here are five key points from the 33-8 win.
Tigers defence an improvement
It may not look like it after conceding five tries to two and missing 43 tackles, but there was plenty to like about the improvement in the current 16th-placed side's defence – and both coaches were in agreement.
A whopping 13 errors and completion rate of just over 60 per cent for the match gave that defence far too much to do but the Tigers were repeatedly able to repel sets at their line and their line speed looked to have improved.
"They got off the line well at us defensively," Roosters coach Trent Robinson said of his opponents.
"I thought their energy was good tonight... I thought the physicality in their defence was good for the most part."
Tigers coach Jason Taylor was also pleased with the defensive resolve (though not the ball handling).
"I'm really happy with what we did defensively for the whole 80 minutes. In the second half they got three tries and they had an enormous amount of possession in our half," he said.
A curious sin-bin
With his side down by plenty inside the final five minutes and having just kicked out on the full from a restart for the second time, fiery Tigers lock Martin Taupau let it get the better of him and went in with a swinging arm on Roosters pivot James Maloney as the latter was on the ground.
It sparked a mini fracas and referee Jared Maxwell saw fit to send Taupau for 10 in the bin (or the roughly five minutes still left in the game).
The sin-binning seemed fair enough, although those types of foul play offences rarely result in a player being marched in the modern game, but neither Maloney nor his coach said they felt the sin-bin was warranted.
"I thought it was unnecessary. I'm not sure about the time off field, it's not common in our game but it was pretty intentional and it was a stiff arm. It was just unnecessary, that's how it looked," Robinson said.
Added Maloney: "It just clipped me a little bit there but I don't think it was too bad. There's been a lot of worse things."
He said he was "surprised" to see Taupau sent from the field. "They're pretty reluctant these days to bin people... It'd be interesting if it was tight and in a bigger game."
'Beast mode' engaged for Taukeaiho
Young Roosters forward Sio Siua Taukeiaho just seems to keep getting better the deeper we go into 2015 – an impressive effort given this is the point when first-year players can rightly be expected to start to struggling as a gruelling first year in the top grade starts to catch up with them.
Having played just a single NRL game – for the Warriors – before 2015 Taukeiaho is right in the mix for rookie of the year honours and his numbers off the bench on Friday night against the Tigers were staggering.
His 169 metres was the most by a forward from either team and second only to fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's 220 in the match. It came from just 15 runs with five tackle breaks and a line break.
After the game coach Trent Robinson praised the impact of his bench, as did starting prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
"The second half I thought our bench forwards paved the way. [They didn't get] enough support early on but they were physical," Robinson said.
Waerea-Hargreaves added: "Siua, Sammy [Moa], Isaac [Liu], those boys – we like to say we're in 'beast mode'. Siua, he's playing outstanding, he just needs to continue what he's doing and bring the right attitude each week.
"It just shows tonight what he's capable of doing. He's got some skills and some speed and some footwork and some size."
Richards' off night with the boot
The biggest boot in rugby league has tormented opponents with towering kickoffs, drop goals from halfway and dropouts that soar 70 metres for his entire career, while his goal kicking is a huge strength.
But his radar deserted him on Friday night, missing two tough but gettable conversions that could have proved crucial if the Tigers had reined in their poor ball control earlier but more worrying were two restarts that sailed over the touchline on the full, handing the Roosters a free leg-up back into Tiger territory straight after having scored points.
The second came very late in the game with the result beyond doubt but the first was something of a turning point, coming after the Roosters opened the night's scoring with a penalty goal, though it didn't lead directly to points.
It was a rare off night for the former Wigan superboot and being the professional that he is, came down hard on himself.
"Some of the errors were ridiculous. Patty Richards is very down on himself about his kicking. We handed the Roosters the game," Taylor said.
Elliot at home in first grade
Rookie Roosters winger Brendan Elliot has done a sterling job in his few opportunities this year and bagged his first career double against the Tigers, earning the praise of coach and teammates.
"He had some nice catches; he's a nice catcher and a nice runner and he's got some speed about him," Robinson said.
"He's still getting the physicality of league as well. He supported 'Fergo' [centre Blake Ferguson] well and also Roger [Tuivasa-Sheck] well out the back."