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Roosters win the set 6-0, the watershed Warriors and Wayne licks his wounds

Craig Bellamy. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Expert
20th April, 2018
126
2718 Reads

When animals become ill or injured, they are often humanely put out of their misery. Sometimes rugby league matches should meet the same fate.

In an error-ridden contest at ANZ Stadium in front of a poor crowd, the Roosters held onto an early lead for 75 minutes and kept the hapless Bulldogs scoreless.

There have historically been excellent low-scoring affairs where the defence has dominated, with both teams completing well and putting immense pressure on each other with their respective kicking games.

This, sadly, was not one of those matches. Latrell Mitchell scored in the fifth minute after a penalty for an incorrect play-the-ball against Aaron Woods.

I wrote a few weeks back that Woods’ sloppiness would hurt the Bulldogs at some point, yet I also recognised that the failure to award another penalty for the same offence throughout the remainder of the match is a continuation of inconsistent refereeing of the highest (or lowest) order.

The try was converted and the Roosters took the early lead, a lead they would never give up and one the Bulldogs rarely looked like diminishing.

With a massive advantage in possession and field position, particularly in the second half, the Dogs reverted to the Des Hasler playbook and ran forward after forward, one out, and the Roosters’ organised defence rose to the challenge.

Aaron Woods

(Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Moreover, the last tackle-kicking options were utterly appalling, with a bomb from 40 metres out proving the kick of choice. Grubbers were ineffective and attacking players were rarely present to even make a contest of the situation.

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The impotent backline attack was underwhelming and offered no promise, with most of the possession shifted wide resulting in a couple of twins running sideways or dropped ball.

The Roosters were more than guilty in that area themselves, with 28 handling errors made between both sides throughout the course of the game. A very disappointed crowd shuffled through the gates at night’s end.

All credit to the chooks, however: they were far more dangerous in attack and defended gamely on their line.

I’m still waiting for the second set to begin; the first set was a dud.

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The same cannot be said of the second match played this weekend, as the two form teams in the competition faced off at Mount Smart Stadium.

With the Dragons under a cloud of illness and the Warriors without talisman Shaun Johnson, it was a tough contest to line up, and the 80 minutes of action lived up to the hype of two teams who have hardly missed a beat in 2018.

The Warriors took the early initiative and went to the break with a 10-0 lead. Expectedly, the Dragons came home strongly and won the second half by two, yet the Warriors held on for a 20-12 victory that will add further belief to their squad and continue the momentum they have built early in the season.

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The frightful thing for much of the competition was the outstanding performance of Issac Luke, who dominated through the middle and capped off a brilliant game with a try in the second half.

It was the best performance Luke has produced for some time, and with the depth and power across the Warriors squad when all fit and healthy, the impressive spine they possess must surely see them as a potential premiership winner.

The contest reeked of a finals clash, with both teams looking like top-four combatants, and every time the Dragons threw something at the Warriors, the home side responded.

Stephen Kearney might have something special on his hands with this team, and the Dragons also look like they will take some beating. It might be a fair prediction to suggest that they may ruffle each other’s feathers much later in the year when the stakes are far higher.

Dragons

(Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

The media-hyped grudge match/job interview between the master coach and the supposed ‘apprentice’ seeking to assume his throne at the Broncos played out in an expected manner.

Craig Bellamy has an astonishing record against Wayne Bennett, and despite a gallant Broncos team, the visitors had the northerner’s measure for much of the contest.

Despite scoring early, the remainder of the first half was ugly for Brisbane, and Melbourne were clinical in establishing a 14-point lead by half-time with tries to Slater (2) and Addo-Carr silencing the crowd.

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The Broncos were better in the second period, yet the brilliance of Anthony Milford is still moderated by errors, as his crucial misread of a Storm grubber kick allowed Suliasi Vunivalu to score the matchwinning try with 12 minutes remaining on the clock.

The match was entertaining and befitting of two professional and polished teams, and it was only tarnished by some silly media throughout the week attempting to personalise the clash as a ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ moment between two of the game’s greatest coaches.

In the end it was a quality encounter where the football outshone any backroom coaching deals that may be unfolding in the boardrooms of NRL clubs.