The Roosters maintained their perfect Thursday ANZAC Day record with a 20-10 win over the St George-Illawarra Dragons in a thrilling encounter at the SCG.
It was a story of two halves as the Roosters dominated the first half, leading 14-0 at the break after tries to Latrell Mitchell and Angus Crichton.
Latrell Mitchell’s opener came in the 16th minute after Matt Dufty spilled a bomb, and it was subsequently cleaned up by Daniel Tupou who contested the ball, and eventually found Mitchell backing up to open the try scoring. Mitchell almost scored not long after that as well, but it was ruled out by Cordner interference.
The second Roosters try came straight after a glorious 40-20 by Jake Friend; a few plays after the scrum Crichton crashed over from 10 metres having singled out Corey Norman in defence.
The second half saw the Dragons turn the tables; they looked the much better side and they put their first points on the board in the 48th through Zac Lomax, who was denied a try in the first half due the last pass going forward.
Then Matt Dufty produced one of the individual tries of the season so far. The Dragons fullback started his run from his own 40 metre mark, and by the time the ball was planted had run rings around at least half the Roosters team. That made it 14-10 with plenty to play.
Sadly it didn’t end well for the Dragons or Dufty, as he spilled a bomb with three minutes to go, and the loose ball eventually found its way into the arms of the excellent Sio Siua Taukeiaho who sealed the game with a deserved try.
Varying fortunes for Origin hopefuls
The ANZAC Day clash saw some of the premium State of Origin players put in some big games, pointing to another glorious Origin series coming soon.
Mitchell continued his great recent form, and Queensland should be very worried about how they are going to contain him. He is going to give the Maroons some real headaches, considering how low on options in the centres they are. James Tedesco showed his class too, his 80 metre run which almost ended in a try the picks of the highlights.
The final Origin moment came between Jake Friend and Ben Hunt. The Dragons halfback is a leading candidate for the Queensland number nine given his excellent work in Game Three last year, but a returning Friend won this contest with his work from dummy half for the Roosters. We’ll have to wait on the injury news for Hunt before worrying any more about the Queensland hooker battle.
Roosters’ first half good, second half bad.
The Roosters are the first half kings, having won all the first 40 minutes in their games this season, but it is the second 40 that could raise concerns.
To underline their first half credentials, the Roosters have conceded just four tries in seven first halves of football this season, scoring 110 points and conceding just the 24. The only side to score two tries against them in the first half were the Rabbitohs – the only team to beat them this year.
Perhaps it is because they are cruising in the second half with a decent half time lead, but the Roosters have lost four of the seven second halves in 2019, with a differential of 71-88.
It may mean nothing if the Roosters cruise to a second consecutive title, which looks likely on current form, but perhaps if teams can shut out the Roosters more in the first 40, they can unlock a rare win against the Tricolours.
The curious case of Ben Hunt
Hunt has been treated pretty harshly at times by rugby league fans, and some were probably forced to eat their words given the Dragons halfback’s start to 2019.
However the big ANZAC Day clash saw some of the doubts return to whether Hunt is really up for the big, big occasions.
Although not ultimately game losing moments, the errors cost the Dragons what looked a certain try, and a subsequent error stopped their momentum. He wasn’t the only one to drop the ball in the match, but it is in big games when the big players step up and take charge.
Ben Hunt is a great NRL player, but whether he can ultimately be trusted to deliver a premiership or make the Origin match-winning moment remains in doubt.
Injury further soured his day as he went off with ten minutes to go.
ANZAC Day at the SCG a great occasion
The NRL is starting to catch the AFL for the ANZAC Day occasion, and it was another great ANZAC Day event at a glorious-looking SCG. Everything was the right tone and it is a nice change from the blaring commercialism that usually opens an NRL game. And kudos for the Dragons and Roosters for continuing to provide the on-field entertainment.
It was nice to have the big occasion played at such a traditional venue too, perhaps something that could be revisited in the future when the new stadiums are built.
Viewing of the actual game seems a little hard on the circular arena, but ANZAC Day is as much about the event than the game.
One thing about the pre-game for general NRL consumption: isn’t it a much nicer beginning to a game to have both teams walk out together rather than the away team running out a minute before the opposition to boos around the ground? The dual walk out works for the Premier League.
Sydney Roosters 20
Tries: L. Mitchell, A. Crichton, S. Taukeiaho
Goals: Mitchell 4/5
St George-Illawarra Dragons 10
Tries: Z. Lomax, M. Dufty
Goals: Z. Lomax 1/2
Sydney Roosters: 1 J. Tedesco 2 D. Tupou 4 J. Manu 6 L. Mitchell 5 M. Ikuvalu 17 L. Lam 7 C. Cronk 8 J. Waerea-Hargreaves 9 J. Friend 10 S. Taukeiaho 11 B. Cordner 12 A. Crichton 13 V. Radley
Interchange: 3 M. Aubusson 14 N. Butcher 15 Z. Tetevano 16 S. Tupouniua
St George-Illawarra Dragons: 1 M. Dufty 2 J. Pereira 3 E. Aitken 4 T. Lafai 15 Z. Lomax 6 C. Norman 7 B. Hunt 8 J. Graham 9 C. McInnes 10 P. Vaughan 11 T. Frizell 12 T. Sims 16 J. Host
Interchange: 5 M. Ravalawa 13 B. Lawrie 14 J. Latimore 17 L. Leilua