Ignore the final score. Whether the Roosters had claimed a 21-20 victory off the back of a freakish Latrell Mitchell field goal or the men in purple had pinched the game at the other end from the boot of Cameron Munster, it makes little difference.
The Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm confirmed they are well and truly the benchmarks of the NRL competition when they did battle on Good Friday.
The Chooks are the reigning premiers, sit second on the ladder and have looked the most polished unit over the first five rounds.
The Storm appeared hot on their tails; undefeated after Round 5, despite some of their opponents’ form looking somewhat questionable. Their victims thus far have shown increasingly patchy form and when the Roosters jumped them early at AAMI Park last night, there appeared to be some validation of the questions around some of their early season opposition.
It began with a flurry for the tricolours. Tries to Mitchell, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and James Tedesco helped establish a 20-0 lead for after just 31 minutes. A converted try to Josh Addo-Carr and a late penalty goal brought some hope for the southerners as the teams entered the sheds.
In true modern rugby league fashion, momentum swung immediately after the break, with Rooster errors and Storm composure shifting the balance. From a 20-8 deficit, the Storm were back on level terms after converted tries to Tui Kamikamica and Curtis Scott after 54 minutes.
From that point, the match became the archetypal grind, with neither side willing to concede ground or take unnecessary risks. Despite some frantic moments, there was to be no heroic feat in regular time and the dreaded golden point scenario was once again used to split two teams who potentially both deserved a point.
The freakish Mitchell added another moment of excellence to his resume with a 39-metre drop goal that silenced the crowd and sent the Chooks to within a for-and-against point of the top of the ladder.
It began as a red, white and blue domination, then morphed into a Storm comeback and, in the end, became a nail-biting golden point victory for the Roosters.
Logic suggests there could very well be a clash between these two teams in the finals. If there is, I suggest we all buy a ticket.
The traditional Good Friday clash at ANZ Stadium between the Bulldogs and the Rabbitohs played out as another tough and uncompromising encounter, with South Sydney victorious 14-6.
It was another courageous effort from the Bulldogs and a performance that further confused those studying form and attempting to gauge their chances in 2019.
The ‘rocks or diamonds’ Bulldogs are proving impossible to read; with horrendous losses to the Warriors and Dragons juxtaposed with a slick win against the Tigers and a brave 16-18 loss to the Storm.
After the poor performance at Kogarah in Round 5, the Bunnies loomed as a stern test for the blue and whites. Early on it looked ominous for Canterbury as a brisk start by Souths led to a mountain of possession and territorial advantage in the first half.
The 14-6 score at the break was a deception. In reality, Souths should have led by 20, with their 70 per cent share of possession, some dubious decisions and the bounce of the ball all keeping the Dogs’ scrambling in defence throughout the half.
Damien Cook schemed relentlessly inside the red zone, creating numerous opportunities and the Rabbitohs will be disappointed that they were not able to extend their lead further in the opening 40 minutes.
To their credit, the Bulldogs hung on grimly. I’m not quite sure how they did so under the Bunny bombardment, yet the eight point half time deficit was something of a win for them.
Despite a continuation of their error riddled game early in the second half, the Bulldogs dug in once more and miraculously, looked most likely to score late in the match.
Possession leveled up somewhat during the second term and only handling errors prevented the Bulldogs from capitalising on their increased share of the ball.
In the end, the final 53 minutes played out without a point being scored. The Rabbitohs will be furious that a dominant first half performance didn’t translate into greater scoreboard pressure.
As for the Bulldogs? Well, I’m not sure what they are.