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The Roar

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Roosters remain the model of inconsistency in 2014

(AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Roar Rookie
24th May, 2014
15

If you’re searching for one 80-minute performance to define the season for the defending premiers so far in 2014, look no further than last night’s grudge match between the Sydney Roosters and Canterbury Bulldogs.

While the scoreline may suggest a one-sided affair, anyone who watched the game would contend the Bondi boys didn’t deserve to win by anywhere near 20 points.

Buoyed by the absence of the Doggies’ four best players, as well as a late-game sin bin that buckled the floodgates, the Roosters piled on the points in garbage time, but have yet to fully shake off their championship hangover.

A team that looked like scoring at will in 2013 put together a very choppy offensive showing last night, albeit missing two key backline contributors in Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou. Mitchell Aubusson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall filled in adequately, but a team-wide inability to convert opportunities into points made for a dangerously close game by half time.

Nene McDonald showed he can hang with the big boys in a wonderful debut, scoring a try, breaking tackles and making the sort of heads-up defensive plays that make him a real handful in the Under-20s league. Stout, tall and elusive, the youngster looks every bit like Tupou 2.0, and this won’t be the last we see of him.

Meanwhile, the team’s finest talent – the usually selective Sonny Bill Williams – was dumping blind offloads like nobody’s business, looking less like a premier NRL forward and more like an AFL rookie desperate not to be tackled with the ball. His one try assist came courtesy of a pass that was suspect at best, and he foolishly let his temper get the better of him in a stoush with renowned pest Michael Ennis.

As tempers started to flare in a competitive contest, the Roosters ill discipline came back to haunt them. Again on the wrong end of the penalty count, with nobody to blame but themselves, the Roosters couldn’t keep the Dogs from hanging around far longer than they deserved.

Almost half way through this season, it is clear we are watching a very different team, even if the faces are largely the same. No longer can fans crack open a beer and start channel surfing, confident that the team can cradle a one-try lead with 30 minutes to go.

To expect the team to recreate last year’s defensive effort is ludicrous. After all, they didn’t just field the number one scoring defence in the league, they boasted one of the historically great defences of all time, but improvement certainly needs to be made.

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As the ageless saying goes, a win is a win, but the means wouldn’t have justified the ends for their methodical and highly-disciplined coach. Pending the rest of the round’s results, the Tricolours should creep back into the top eight, and let’s not forget, it was this time last year that they began to lay the foundation for their premiership victory.

Only time will tell whether recent developments are the kick-start they need, or if they will fade into obscurity come September.

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