Roosters v Broncos: Five Key Points
The injury-hit Roosters edged one of the most thrilling NRL Telstra Premiership matches of the year at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, holding on to a gutsy 12-10 win against Brisbane in a match played at a finals-level intensity. Here are five of many talking points to come from the match.
Correct call upsets fans but not players
Up to the 27th minute it had been all Roosters – despite the early losses of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Mitchell Pearce to injury – and when James Maloney bombed to the right, Brisbane winger Corey Oates couldn't defuse the kick and Blake Ferguson cleaned up the scraps for what looked a certain Roosters try.
The officials wanted to check it though and after a lengthy inspection video referees Steve Chiddy and Luke Patten found an angle that clearly showed the ball flicked the fingers of Roosters winger Brendan Elliott and travelled forward before Ferguson cleaned it up, rightly hitting the no-try button.
While plenty in the crowd wearing red, white and blue were losing their cool over the perceived injustice, the 13 men in the middle wearing the same colour were not, scoring down the same channel just three minutes later through Ferguson's pass to Elliott.
Blair's argy bargy costs his side quick restart
Brisbane prop Adam Blair, on his return from suspension, clearly made it a mission to harass Roosters playmaker James Maloney.
He went to tackle Maloney as the pivot took last-tackle kicks on several occasions, and one of those – in the 36th minute with his side down 8-0 and desperate for a square-up before half time – saw him flatten the Roosters five-eighth in the process of launching a bomb.
Brisbane winger Jordan Kahu marked the bomb in-goal and raced back for a quick tap, which threatened to push the Roosters onto the back foot but the play was called back because Blair – rather than retreating behind the 20-metre line to allow play to continue, chose instead to lie on Maloney in an attempt to agitate him further.
Kahu's quick tap was called back, the Roosters had time to re-set, Anthony Milford dropped it cold two plays later and the Roosters attacked again – and were unlucky not to extend their lead before half-time when a pass that sent Aidan Guerra over was deemed fractionally forward.
"That's a blow for the Broncos looking for a quick start, hung up because of Blair and Glenn offside still tangling with James Maloney," Fox Sports caller Greg Alexander commented when the play was first halted.
It was a costly move and lucky not to have been more costly. Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett may have a quiet word to his enforcer about choosing his moments better once the finals arrive.
Roosters missed opportunities pile up
It made the game all the more gripping but if Blake Ferguson had managed to force the ball down on any of his repeated visits to the Brisbane in-goal, or if a number of other near misses had gone their way, the home side could have put the match to bed far earlier.
In addition to the above-mentioned chance that went begging thanks to a slight knock on from Elliott, or the close forward pass call against Jake Friend putting Guerra over right on half time, Ferguson was denied on no fewer than three occasions.
He came agonisingly close in the 21st, when Glenn rushed in to help Milford deny him millimetres short of the line after looking likely to score; in the 27th was denied by Elliott's knock on; in the 37th ran straight over the top of Milford before a last-ditch effort from Corey Oates dislodged the ball from his grasp; and in the 71st was again denied by Oates who dragged him down as he looked certain to score, eventually grounding the ball a couple of inches short of the line.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson could afford to smile about it after the game.
"I think Fergo counted three. He had three opportunities and didn't finish them off," he said.
"We didn't work our opportunities enough. I thought we possibly could have got at least one more try there.
"We need to improve some of those areas that were under a lot of pressure tonight because of the speed of the game... we want to improve on that."
Rampaging Roger's ridiculous running
Fleet-footed Roosters custodian Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ran for a highly improbably 331 metres without the aid of a single line break on Saturday night, taking his absurd season tally to 5,270 at the superhuman average of 239.5 metres per game, according to NRL.com Stats.
To put it in perspective, coming into the round he was around 1.5 kilometres ahead of the season's next best, Storm prop Jesse Bromwich (3391 metres at 161 per game). A better comparison may be the next-best fullback, Josh Dugan, whose 18 games prior to Round 24 yielded 3289 metres at 183 per game – still more than 50 metres per week below Tuivasa-Sheck.
"I think Roger can get better from where he's at at the moment," an understated Robinson said after the game.
"The way he brings the ball back, it's changed the way we attack out of the back field. It's been enormous the way he's carried and he doesn't have an off switch when it comes to carrying the ball."
Both sides get a taste of finals come early
There is no doubting the finals-level intensity of the clash. It was quick, it was physical, players played through pain and injury, the two teams are likely to finish first and second on the ladder and seem destined to meet again in September or October.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett described the game as "typical finals-type football" and welcomed the tough hit out, and the fact that his team stayed in the tough contest for 80 minutes despite doing a mountain more defence in the first half.
"A lot of players that haven't experienced this type of stuff," he said.
"That game was quick out there tonight. If you haven't played Origin you don't know about it so it was good for us really for what's coming up in the next month."
Robinson said he thought it was a great game that was played at a high intensity.
"It was semi final-like. I'd say for both teams we'll be positive about the way the game was played and the stuff that we saw and we also get a preview on 'hang on there's some stuff we need to work on in those circumstances as well'," he said.
"I'd say Brisbane and us at the Roosters are happy about the way the game was played. What we did and also what we can get out of it."