Roosters v Dragons: Five key points
The Dragons' hopes of playing finals football in 2016 were officially extinguished on Sunday, going down 42-6 to the Roosters at Allianz Stadium. Blake Ferguson and Daniel Tupou grabbed doubles for the red-hot Tricolours while Mitchell Pearce once again played a starring role.
Origin talk too early for Pearce
Channel Nine commentator Phil Gould suggested Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce should be the first player picked when the NSW Blues squad is named for Game One next year.
If recent form is anything to go by, he isn't far off the mark.
Pearce has had five try assists in his last two starts, and while he's been restricted to just 10 matches in 2016, he's been close to his side's best in all of them.
Injuries and suspension meant the 27-year-old was never a realistic chance of adding to his 15 State of Origin caps this year, and Roosters coach Trent Robinson doesn't want to start getting into hypotheticals for next year's series either.
"Let's not go through that again. It's a long time away," he said.
"He's really important to us – I think everyone's seen that – and he's played some really good footy when he's been on the park this year, even not at 100 per cent fit. It's a credit to him."
Dragons fail to fire when it mattered most
Last week's takedown of the high-flying Sharks gave Dragons fans plenty of reason to believe they could leave Allianz with the two competition points against a side that started the round in 15th spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
They were very much mistaken.
Attack was the order of the day against the Sharks, but as Dragons coach Paul McGregor said, his side simply had no energy to throw the ball around on Sunday after being forced into making 63 more tackles than their opponents.
It was a disappointing end to what had been a promising month of footy for the Red V, with finals not out of reach.
"Against the Bulldogs we built pressure really well early in the game and it allowed us to finish the game strong," he said.
"We won the second half comfortably there, and against Brisbane we went set for set for most of the game and finished the game well as well. Last week we put it all together but today we just didn't do that early.
"Today the Roosters played that first 20 minutes probably better than most teams have against us all year. I don't think it's anything more than field position early. So when you do get the ball you're not as fresh as we were last week.
"We were coming out of a gun off the back fence because we had possession, and more intent because of that."
Motivation no issue for the Roosters
Performances like Sunday afternoon have the rest of the rugby league world thanking their lucky stars that the Roosters won't be playing finals football in 2016.
You'd think their coach would be frustrated after seeing his side reel off three wins from their last four starts, but according to Robinson, the Roosters don't deserve to feature in the post-season.
"I said to the boys after the game that we don't deserve to be in the finals based on this year and the way that we've gone about this year," he said.
"I've had a couple of people talk about how it's hard to get teams motivated, but that's been the opposite with these guys.
"They want to play good footy and they've been training that way. It's come out on the park two weeks in a row and it's really good to see at this stage of the season given where we're sitting."
Luciano Leilua needed more game time
When one-man wrecking ball Luciano Leilua's name was on the final team list to take on the Roosters, most people expected to see the 20-year-old play a pivotal role off the bench as he did against the Broncos in his NRL debut.
The Dragons certainly could have used his size in the first half when the Roosters were on the front foot, but instead Leilua was kept on the bench until the game was well and truly over.
The Holden Cup star managed just 19 metres from three carries in a disappointingly quiet performance.
With their season done and dusted for 2016, it'll be interesting to see if Leilua is retained in first grade or sent back to the NYC where the Dragons are battling for a top four finish.
Ryan Matterson shows off his versatility
If Mitchell Aubusson is known as 'Mr Fix it', then what do you call the man who replaces him?
That was the conundrum put forward when Aubusson was forced from the field after just 18 minutes with an injury he picked up while scoring the game's first try.
For the second week in a row, Ryan Matterson had to come a lot earlier than expected to fill the void at left centre, and for the second week in a row, he did it in style.
More known for his ability to play in the halves, Matterson showed no signs of nerves in the three-quarter line to cross for his second try in as many matches.
It remains unclear what his role will be next year when Luke Keary arrives in Bondi, but it must be heartening for Robinson to see his utility value should an opportunity arise in the outside backs.