The first game in the NRL’s 2017 finals series did not disappoint, giving all rugby league lovers a game that had a bit of everything. The Roosters won a week off, whilst the Broncos aim to stay alive next week. But it was almost the other way around.
Latrell! Latrell! Latrell!
He’s promised so much for a player so young, but on Friday night, Roosters superstar-in-the-making Latrell Mitchell was their saviour. After seeing a 14-0 lead evaporate and then turn into a four-point deficit, the Roosters needed a hero. And didn’t Mitchell deliver.
Mitchell gave opposite number James Roberts problems all night and was unlucky not to score earlier in the half. After the Broncos took the lead thanks to a Blake Ferguson brain snap with nine minutes to go, Mitchell took his opportunity. The man they call a “GI clone” showed us why he’d been given such praise. Swatting Roberts away as though he was nothing, Mitchell pinned his ears back from 25 metres out. The Roosters had this game in the bag, but then lost it. Latrell Mitchell won it. And you just know this won’t be the last game he wins for them.
Not Just Fergo
The Roosters visibly started to lose focus around the 30-minute mark, when they’d amassed a 14-0 lead. Forced passes, rushed kicks, silly penalties, missed tackles, you name it, the Roosters did it. They invited the Broncos back into the game and it almost cost them.
Ferguson’s brain snap trying to save a Benji Marshall 40/20, but gift-wrapping a try to Corey Oates to take the lead, was just one of many mistakes the Roosters made. You would think coach Trent Robinson would be happy with the result, but that would be about it. If they are to seriously challenge the hot favourites Melbourne Storm, this kind of performance just won’t cut it.
Lots of Improvement in the Broncos
The Broncos will have mixed feelings about this game. Yes, they were looking at an unlikely late win, but Latrell Mitchell emphatically put a stop to that. Brisbane will know that they were never really in this game until the Roosters started to invite them back into it.
Whether captain Darius Boyd is able to return next week is doubtful, but you know that he and the Brisbane medical staff will be doing all they can to get him back on the paddock. They need him. However, the team that played the Roosters will know they are capable of putting in a better performance. And they have to, otherwise…
The Broncos Could Be Done For 2017
Chances are, the Broncos will be playing Manly next week, and this won’t be an easy game to get through without Boyd. The Sea Eagles have shown they can play at a high standard when the mood takes them. And this could spell trouble for the Broncos. This game against the Roosters showed – that with so many changes in personnel – they lacked cohesion in attack, but more importantly they lacked trust and confidence in defence.
That is no way to win a semi-final, though they almost stole this one. If the Sea Eagles (or Penrith) have an off day, the Broncos won’t have anything to worry about. But if they come out and play quality rugby league, the Broncos might be saying goodbye to 2017 early.
Tries: Guerra (13m), Cordner (18m), Keary (44m), Mitchell (75m)
Goals: Gordon 4/5
Tries: Roberts (37m), Oates (49m, 71m), Hunt (69m)
Goals: Kahu 3/4