The Sydney Roosters held out a spirited Newcastle Knights side in front of a decent crowd of 18,029 people at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle. Despite the rain and miserable conditions the fans still turned up and the players put on a good game.
Trent Robinson decided to rest Skipper Boyd Cordner after his heroics on Wednesday night for NSW whilst also putting QLD prop Dylan Napa on the bench.
If Newcastle thought they could take advantage of the ‘weakened’ Roosters’ pack they were quickly reminded the Roosters have fire power all over the park with another of their Origin Stars Latrell Mitchell beating three defenders to set off on a run starting on his own ten metre line and ending with Luke Keary crossing the line for the games’ opening points.
Newcastle then decided to take a short kickoff which paid dividends as they re-gathered the ball and scored a few plays later as the Knights’ Sione Matau’tia powered through four defenders to score an impressive try to lock the game up 6-6.
The Knights took another two points from a penalty to take the lead but from that point on the game was played inside the Knights’ half with the home side forced to do plenty of defending due to their poor ball handling and smart game management of Roosters’ halves Keary and Cooper Cronk.
Whilst the Knights held on bravely the pressure finally proved too much as Blake Ferguson scored after a smart Roosters’ move off a scrum following another error from Newcastle, to give the Roosters a 12-8 lead going into half-time.
The second half started much like the first ended with Newcastle turning the ball over and the Roosters camped inside their twenty metre line, again Newcastle held on before Ferguson fooled everyone with a blind side scoot from dummy half catching Ken Sio napping as Ferguson crossed for his second try.
The two sides traded penalty goals before Newcastle scored a late try through Kalyn Ponga after some nice lead up work from Ponga and Matau’tia, after the conversion Newcastle trailed by just the two points but despite an adventurous last play where the ball went from one side line to the other Newcastle ran out of room and the Roosters held on for a valuable two competition points.
Cronk and Keary Control
In the build up to the game the match up of Cooper Cronk v Jack Cogger was highlighted with the Knights’ young half admitting Cronk was his idol growing up, Cogger got a front row view of his idol and how to manage a game with his boot as both Cronk and Keary put on a kicking display for the ages.
Despite a spirited display from Newcastle they were constantly pinned in their own half and started most of their sets off their own line thanks to the precision kicking from the Roosters halves combination.
Back Three Errors
As a result from the Roosters’ kicking game the Knights’ back three were under pressure for the entire night as they were constantly ‘peppered’ with well weighted kicks and strong kick chases. The constant barrage on last tackle plays led to a few key errors from their back three which undid all the good work Newcastle had done in defence.
After defending their line for multiple sets in the first half Shaun Kenny-Dowall failed to defuse a bomb which led to Ferguson’s try off the scrum, whilst in the second half Ponga also couldn’t safely capture another Cronk bomb. This led to another Roosters’ set and Ferguson again was the benefactor as he caught the third member of the Knights’ back three Sio asleep on his own line. Despite a brave effort in defence some costly errors from his back three cost Nathan Brown’s side.
After a difficult week for Blake Ferguson where he was in the papers for venting his disappointment for missing Origin selection and being linked to a move away from Bondi, he also had to sit through Wednesday nights’ game thinking he deserved to be there. To go along with all of this he was coming off an indifferent game against the Tigers where he was ridiculed for some simple errors.
Ferguson doesn’t always respond well to setbacks and after struggling to gather the first kick that went his way Roosters’ fans were probably thinking ‘here we go again’. But Ferguson turned in a great performance from that point scoring two smart tries and doing plenty of work coming out of his own end. If you believe what you see in the papers Ferguson might be in for a permanent stay at McDonald Jones Stadium and after last nights’ performance the home fans will be more than welcoming.
Sin Bin Dis-Advantage
When Newcastle were mounting their comeback they had all the momentum and the pressure was starting to take toll on the Roosters who started to give away regular penalties to halt the Knights’ run. The referees had enough and sent Dylan Napa to the sin bin and with Newcastle just the six points behind this was their chance to take the game.
Instead they constructed a poor set of six tackles on the Roosters’ line which resulted in a poor kick from Cogger that went dead to give the Roosters’ a seven tackle set, for the remainder of the period in which Napa was in the bin Cronk controlled the game and kept the ball away from Newcastle to soak up the time. At one point the Roosters got a penalty and took over a minute off the clock decided to take a penalty goal to give them the only points scored during the sin bin.
On a side note there was a sad ending to the game for one of the nice guys of the NRL Jamie Burher, the Knights’ co-captain was only on the field for a matter of minutes before he went down with a knee injury. After the game our worst fears were realised when Brown confirmed Burher had done his ACL which will end his season. Being off contract and this being his third ACL injury it’s unknown if Burher will re-sign with Newcastle or if he will play again at all. Here’s hoping we see Burher back one the field in 2018.
Tries: Ferguson 2, Keary
Goals: Mitchell 3/4
Drop Goals: N/A
Tries: Matau’tia, Ponga
Goals: Ponga 4/4
Drop Goals: N/A
Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Luke Keary, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend (c), 12 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 16 Mitchell Aubusson, 17 Victor Radley 13 Isaac Liu, 10 Dylan Napa, 14 Zane Tetevano, 15 Kurt Baptiste, 18 Nat Butcher
Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Cory Denniss, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Jack Cogger, 8 Herman Ese’ese, 9 Slade Griffin, 17 Josh King, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 13 Aidan Guerra (c), 14 Danny Levi, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jamie Buhrer (c), 18 Jacob Lillyman