Roosters coach regrets playing Pearce
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinsons has conceded the decision to bring Mitchell Pearce back from a hamstring injury to face the Broncos in their Preliminary Final was the wrong one as the minor premiers failed to qualify for the grand final for a second successive year.
No other team in NRL premiership history has finished the regular season on top of the table two years in a row and not qualified for the grand final, and losing their State of Origin halfback after 40 minutes certainly didn't help the cause.
Pearce hadn't played since injuring his hamstring against Brisbane in Round 24 and grabbed at the back of his knee five minutes from half-time with his team trailing 16-12.
When the Roosters re-emerged for the second half they did so without their No.7 and Robinson was left to rue what he had learned only in hindsight.
"It wasn't supposed to be a roll of the dice," Robinson said of the decision to play Pearce.
"He'd been training fully since Monday, he was close last week and I don't know what happened.
"There was about five minutes before half-time and something happened and I could see that he was sore and he didn't have enough strength in it at half-time.
"Obviously in the end, not the right call from us."
The recurrence of Pearce's injury was just one of many misfortunes that befell the Roosters over the course of 80 minutes, the first of which came in the first 90 seconds of the game.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall's decision to attmept a 20-metre pass to fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck landed on the chest of the opposition No.1 as Darius Boyd raced away to score one of the most extraordinary tries in NRL finals history.
While in many ways it set the tone for what was to come, Robinson said that his side should have been resilient enough to recover from the earliest of setbacks.
"Obviously not a great moment – he wasn't sure whether to let it out, run it or pass it, took some time and ended up passing it to Darius," Robinson reflected.
"You want them to back their instincts – got it wrong on that occasion – but that's the freedom you want to allow players to have but you want them to make the right call.
"Not the right call on that occasion but that's not the reason we lost the game. We had our opportunities to get our game on and we didn't.
"We started on the back foot and tried to get back into the game at certain points but too stop-start and not enough of our footy under pressure.
"We obviously got some rhythm to get back to 16-12 but we didn't earn it enough to put enough pressure on them."
Added captain Jake Friend: "The try off the pass was so early that it doesn't really have an effect, I don't think.
"We got into the huddle and talked about getting back into the game and I don't think we did it as well as we could have."
Robinson's record of delivering three minor premierships in his first three years in charge at the Roosters is an enviable one, but a solitary grand final appearance in that time was not enough for the former Catalans Dragons mentor.
"We've been really strong over the last three years – and sometimes the club has different views – but I've got my views on what should have happened over the last three years and there's disappointment there," said Robinson.
"We tried probably more individual stuff than what we have in the past and you lose connection with the guys around you in the team when you start moving away from what you do.
"We've been fairly good over the last few years about staying to our style and being consistent under pressure and we weren't tonight."