Roosters displaying title-winning defence
I haven’t seen a game like the Sydney Roosters’ semi-final clash with Manly in a long time. It was full-on and completely brutal from the opening kick-off to the full-time siren. Both teams went at each other with an intensity befitting a State of Origin match. It was a rugby league war and the Roosters showed why they deserve to be premiership favourites with an incredible 80-minute defensive effort.
The Roosters earned themselves a week off and they are going to appreciate the rest. When they do take the field again they’ll have Jared Waerea-Hargreaves back to add even more starch to their forward pack. They are going to be very hard to beat if they can maintain that intensity for two more matches.
The Sea Eagles came out of that match bruised and disappointed and with only a week to dust themselves off before facing the Sharks. Cronulla are an equally physical team, but will find it difficult without Todd Carney and with Andrew Fifita struggling with injury. The Sharks have left no doubt about how they will play this match with Luke Lewis pulling on the No6 jersey. They will be direct, they will hit the middle of the park hard and they will try to batter their way past the Sea Eagles. If Manly are even slightly off their game they could be knocked over, but with Brett Stewart returning I think they should win through to a preliminary final against South Sydney.
The other big match of the weekend between Souths and Melbourne failed to live up to my expectations. Both teams seemed a bit flat and with a disappointing crowd, there was a real lack of atmosphere out there. The Storm continued an alarming trend of starting the match slowly and facing a flood of possession, thanks to a lop-sided penalty count, they found themselves two tries down at half-time. Still they had two tries disallowed that I believed were legitimate, so they could consider themselves unlucky to lose in the end. They’ll have to make sure they lift their intensity against the Knights this week.
I thought Newcastle looked impressive against a very ordinary Canterbury. The Bulldogs would have been disappointed had they put that kind of effort in during one of their regular season games. To do it in an elimination final was hard for Des Hasler and Bulldogs fans to take. The Knights weathered an early storm from the Bulldogs before completely controlling the rest of the match.
Newcastle now face the monumental task of travelling to Melbourne to tackle the Storm. With Wayne Bennett at the helm and their outside backs on fire, I give them a very good chance of upsetting the reigning premiers. The Storm will bounce back from the disappointment of their loss to the Rabbitohs and with their backs to the wall they’ll be very hard to beat. It promises to be a great game, with the lethal Roosters awaiting the victor.
I had to feel for North Queensland Cowboys, crashing out of the finals for the second year running thanks largely to a refereeing blunder. Last year’s knock-on by Kieren Foran broke the Cowboys’ hearts. To have a seventh-tackle try scored against them this year made them understandably furious. Still, the try came relatively early in the match and they had plenty of time and opportunity to beat the Sharks, but just fell short.