Roosters v Bulldogs: Five key points
In a match for the ages and serious contender for game of the year, the Roosters blasted out to a big lead, eventually fell behind, then scored two quick tries to steal the lead shortly before full-time, adding one more on the bell for good measure. Here are five of the talking points from the 38-28 epic.
Momentum swings are king
It wasn't just a high scoring thriller; one of the things that set this one apart were the huge momentum swings within the game. At 22-0 after 24 minutes, the Roosters were dominating and playing perfect footy. But a lost ball and a couple of penalties later suddenly the Bulldogs were making the running and after conceding 22 straight points they scored 28 unanswered points in 26 minutes.
From there the Roosters got a second wind, largely via the re-injection of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, and scored 16 unanswered points of their own to cap the match off.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler conceded that "certainly the game swung on momentum" while Roosters coach Trent Robinson praised his side's ability to own the last major momentum shift.
"Everybody had little momentum changes that we were trying to push it back in our favour and eventually we did," Robinson said of his players.
Halfback Mitchell Pearce paid particular credit to big runs from Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner in the back end of the game, as well as moments of individual brilliance from centres Michael Jennings and Blake Ferguson in scoring tries.
"Jared and Boydy in the middle; the amount of runs Boydy made, whether it was half breaks or getting quick play the balls, then Jared off the back of that, I thought they were massive to swing the momentum," Pearce said.
"Fergo's try was individual brilliance, Jenko's. As a team we just got back to our role and that swung the momentum back for us."
A toe into touch missed
In the 61st minute, with Canterbury clinging to a 28-22 lead, the Roosters flung the ball around wildly and the last-tackle option eventually saw winger Brendan Elliott fling a ball infield with his foot on the sideline.
With bodies all around the play, the officials' view was obstructed.
The play finished with James Maloney forcing a line drop out over on the other touchline; the Roosters finished that set forcing another dropout then scoring the first of their three late tries to steal the win.
As the Bulldogs were lining up for the first drop out a replay showed the foot into touch, drawing a loud chorus of boos or ironic cheers (depending on which side you were supporting) from the crowd. Irate Bulldogs captain James Graham approached the referees to argue his case but was told they couldn't go back that far, and his side were forced to drop out.
"Probably a bit disappointed with the foot on the sideline," Hasler said.
"They might have missed that. If that was the case, probably the opportunity to check it via the video ref, I think they got a call on the 20 restart to the goal line drop, I've just got to check the rule, I think if it's the same tackle I think you're allowed to check it.
"I think the players questioned [referee Matt] Cecchin about it and he thought he wasn't allowed to go there so I've just probably got to query that with Tony Archer then go from there."
Moa's season in doubt
The Roosters have been left sweating on the fitness of key prop forward Sam Moa after he was taken from the field in the first half of the side's stunning 38-28 win over Canterbury with a broken wrist.
There was a suggestion the 29-year-old may require surgery, and after the game Roosters coach Trent Robinson wasn't even sure if medicos had yet been able to put the prop's wrist back into place.
"Dislocated wrist. They're either trying to put it back in or they'll get it back in tomorrow (Saturday)," Robinson said after the game.
"I'm not sure [how long he'll be out]. Possibly, if they can't get it back in it might [require surgery]. I know they were having trouble when I left so they may have to put him under to get it back in."
Durable Pearce shrugs off an injury
Mitchell Pearce became the youngest-ever player to pass 200 NRL games when he ran out on Friday night aged 26 years, 115 days, and on the night he showed a perfect example of the durability that has helped him race to the milestone so quickly.
In the 72nd minute he was folded awkwardly in a tackle, with his left leg pinned under Greg Eastwood and James Graham pushing him backwards.
It was awkward rather than illegal but the pressure on Pearce's knee looked awful – the sort of thing that sees players spend months on the sideline with strained or ruptured ligaments. After eventually climbing to his feet to assess the damage, Pearce stretched the leg out and played on.
It was a measure of the man that just three minutes later he put in the kick that led to the try that put his side back in front. It epitomised why his coach and teammates rate him so highly.
"His durability, we saw that tackle tonight... most blokes would get injured in that," Robinson said.
"Whereas Pearcey, he's durable, he's put together well, trains well, he's really dedicated to how he lives between game and game then on that one he doesn't get injured. That was a fair indication of why he's played 200 so quickly."
Roosters get the perfect finals wake-up call
At 22-0 up the Roosters were doing it easy, but rather than coasting home they found themselves in one enormous dogfight and had to scrap their way back into the contest after falling behind. While not having it all their own way, Robinson was delighted with the fightback rather than angry at allowing such a big lead to slip.
"I loved it. I thought it was a game where – we obviously want to do what we did at the start and we pride ourselves on our defence – so we want to keep them to a low scoreline and all that," Robinson said.
"And it didn't happen tonight. We let emotion creep in after probably 25 minutes. We just sort of went off the boil a little bit, then we were in a dog fight.
"We had to find a way to win when we were a bit uncomfortable there and that's why it was awesome.
"It was really good to see the game not go how we wanted it to go then still fight back and win like we did. There were some really big plays from individuals that got us back into the game and I really liked that. That was a completely different game to what we've played in a long time and there were heaps of lessons in that. Lots of lessons for a footy team. It wasn't all that we wanted but that will serve us well."