Roosters take heart from fightback
They were missing five of their best players to State of Origin and found themselves trailing 16-6 at half-time at a venue they hadn't won at since 2010, but the Roosters almost pulled one out of the hat to steal what would have been a shock win over the Raiders at GIO Stadium.
The Roosters looked headed for a heavy defeat down 16-6 at the break, but Trent Robinson's men fought bravely in the second stanza to pull within two points before Aidan Sezer killed off the contest with a late try to seal the 24-16 result.
Robinson was full of praise for the way his undermanned side performed against adversity, but conceded the truly great teams would have found a way to get the win just like Cronulla did on Saturday with a gritty 9-8 victory over the Bulldogs.
"It's a measure of a good team if you can perform well during this period and pick up games that you can and ride the wave of players either coming back or coming in and out," Robinson said after the game.
"This is a really important period if you want to be a good team. To be the best team, you've still got to go out and win those games.
"What Cronulla did last night was really impressive. To win that game against Canterbury like they did, that was really impressive, and we almost did that today.
"We almost got that today, so we're still searching for it. I feel like we're a good team and a good club to show what we did today, but we're still striving for that and if we want to be the best then we could have finished that off. That's our target still."
Tries to Joseph Manu and Latrell Mitchell gave Roosters fans hopes of pulling off the miracle win, but a missed sideline conversion by Michael Gordon who had an otherwise outstanding game proved costly, as did Zane Tetevano's decision to hold on to the ball when he had support on his outside.
"It's sort of funny because I was really proud of them, but we talked afterwards and there was a lot of disappointment in the sheds, as there should be, because we thought we worked hard enough to get in a position to win the game and we thought we missed an opportunity," Robinson said.
"It's easy to sit here and say that you're proud of them when you have five out, but that's not the point. We're not the best team at the moment, but that's where we want to get to. If we want to be the best team then there were enough guys out there to finish that off, and we didn't."
Roosters skipper Jake Friend was a standout contributor in his 200th NRL appearance but was left to lament what could have been if luck had gone their way.
"I think there was a lot of footy in that second half and we got ourselves in a position but there were probably a few spots where if we really went after it, we might have cracked them," he said.
"It was just an error or a bit of discipline there [that cost us] but effort-wise, it was massive for us to get ourselves back in the game like that and have a crack at them at the end."