Sydney Roosters captain Jake Friend said the manner in which Blake Ferguson turned an error-riddled start into a series of match-defining plays proved decisive in their 16-14 win over the Wests Tigers.
Prior to his match-sealing tackle on Wests Tigers centre Mahe Fonua inside the final 60 seconds, Ferguson mixed in 223 running metres, 66 post-contact metres, a line break and a try assist.
But he also had a couple of early handling errors that had fans and possibly teammates wondering if it wasn't going to be his day.
Instead of letting his early woes get him down, Ferguson responded in fine style.
Friend was happy with the way the day panned out for Ferguson and applauded his defensive efforts.
"He knew it wasn't the best start and Fergo did what he does and got himself in the game, and he ran hard from the back and set our defence up with his chat out the back," Friend said.
"His attacking play is there for everyone to see but what people don't see is the way he gets us moving in defence. He was really good with our numbers and I think that's why we were so good in defence."
Ferguson, who has played seven Origin matches after debuting in 2013, was one of a host of NSW Origin stalwarts who got the chop in Brad Fittler's overhaul ahead of Wednesday night's series-opener at the MCG.
Friend was surprised Ferguson was snubbed, believing his 2018 form for the Roosters was good enough to secure him another shot with the Blues.
"Yeah I think it was disappointing for him [to not be selected in Origin]. I thought he's been really good for us in the start of the season," Friend said.
"He's done plenty of work and been a big part of our get out sets, so it's disappointing for Fergo but for him to put that aside and go after the fullback position for us this week was really important and I think he's done a great job.
"Obviously you want to see him keep the representative honours but he's definitely a bonus for us not being in game one."
Daniel Tupou returned for the Roosters from a pectoral injury that has seen him on the sideline for 11 weeks, Lindsay Collins got his recall, while Matt Ikuvaluto made his NRL debut.
Friend said with the likes of Boyd Cordner, James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and Dylan Napa ruled out due to Origin duties, the Roosters' depth came in handy on Sunday.
"Especially in this period it's really good to see blokes step up and it shows the depth we do have," Friend said.
"I thought Lindsay Collins was really good to come back in and have the punch he did. For Tups [Tupou] to come back and play the way he did and for Matty Ikuvaluto to come in and do what he did on debut is what we needed, and a big part of why we got away with the win.
"It's an important period for us so hopefully we can keep having those boys turning up."
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