Roosters v Bulldogs: Five key points
Controversy reared its head and impacted the opening match of Week 2 of the finals, as the Roosters ran away with a 38-12 victory over the Bulldogs – ending the 2014 grand finalists' season and booking a preliminary final berth against Brisbane.
Wrong decision turns game on its head
Somehow, someway Kane Evans was awarded a 50th minute try despite replays showing a clear double movement from the Roosters prop.
What should've been a Bulldogs penalty was an extra six points to the minor premiers. Up 8-4 at the time the contentious decision helped the Roosters to an extra six points before Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ran rings around the shell-shocked Bulldogs three minutes later to make it an unattainable 20-4 lead and eventual 38-12 win.
The decision again raised questions about the process that has the on-field referee come up with a decision for the video referees to adjudicate.
Especially when referee Matt Cecchin only saw the end result in the run of play and not whether the ball was clearly grounded or not.
However, it was not the reason the Dogs would go on to lose, according to their skipper.
"They were the better team and it didn't decide the game," an insistent James Graham told Channel Nine post-game.
Trent Hodkinson > Mitchell Pearce
This isn't a talent contest; rather it reflects the greater impact Hodkinson's absence to the Bulldogs proved to be than Pearce's to the Roosters.
Playing the ball the wrong way aside, Moses Mbye hasn't quite inherited the direction Hodkinson brings to the Bulldogs while Josh Reynolds's balance between bringing the same energy to his team and leadership didn't pay off either.
The benefits the Roosters have in this department are the growing star of Jackson Hastings (two try assists, three line-break assists) and the poise of James Maloney.
It makes you think whether Pearce will be eased back in next week against the Broncos off the bench, if he's fit enough to take his place in the 17.
Roosters' right edge light it up
Their combination glowed mid-season, and while it was haltered for the best part of the backend of the year, Blake Ferguson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall certainly got it together to sink the Bulldogs in this one.
Together they combined for nine tackle breaks while Kenny-Dowall's hat-trick was a typical display from the winger – who off the back of it now enters the top 50 try-scorers in rugby league history.
But it was the defence of Ferguson which really shined with the off-season signing time and time again shutting down any backline movements from the Bulldogs.
In saying that...
Three-quarters' errors need addressing
The outside backs from both teams were otherwise terrible.
In the first half alone there were a combined 16 errors with 12 of them coming from a player wearing a 2, 3, 4 or 5 jersey on his back.
Two Curtis Rona errors and a Ferguson knock on straight after half-time didn't make things easier either and by game's end the opposition three-quarters had combined for almost two-thirds of the fixture's errors.
The Roosters' back five lived up to their stature as the second-most error-riddled competition-wide – with (at the detriment of early compliments) Kenny-Dowall and Ferguson coming up with two each and Daniel Tupou forcing a further three.
Between the Bulldogs' left-edge in Rona and Josh Morris they came up with six errors in what was an otherwise unmemorable night for everyone in the backs.
Bulldogs' early ambush not all it was cracked up to be
In the opening exchanges the Bulldogs were brutal. Ruthless and cold-hearted even as they slammed anyone that came at an arm's length of their back.
But the Roosters played it to perfection as they held their own and patiently waited until the Bulldogs fell into the grind of the game.
With plenty of Bulldog energy expelled the Roosters began doing their own thing, and after scoring the game's first try in the 10th minute, the rest was simply history.