All of a sudden, Sydney Roosters will face South Sydney for the minor premiership on Friday night after two consecutive losses. The Roosters followed up their loss to Cronulla with a disappointing defeat against Gold Coast. Whether it turns out to be deflating for the Roosters remains to be seen. They have lost top spot on the premiership ladder for now; can they respond in five days to defeat their rivals in the biggest match of the regular season?
The Titans were brave, having not even been able to pick 17 players on Tuesday. They also lost their lock and co-captain Nate Myles midway through the second half, which allowed the Roosters to get on top, yet the Titans responded when they needed to. They needed to win and, in reality, the Roosters didn’t.
The Roosters played like they had an eye already on next Friday’s prize. Many of us have been guilty of that too. But the league’s best defensive outfit now approach the final round having conceded 62 points in two rounds.
The Roosters’ start was equally sluggish as the Rabbitohs’ opening against Wests Tigers, just without the loss of a player in the opening minutes. After an error by winger Daniel Tupou from a high kick inside two minutes, the Titans took advantage, second-rower Greg Bird putting winger Steve Michaels over for the first try of the contest. After eight minutes, the Titans had doubled their lead, with hooker Beau Falloon catching the Roosters out from dummy half.
The defensive lapse was catching across the park. The Roosters made nine errors in the first half, for a completion rate of 71 percent. Yet the ease with which they swept across the line via second-rower Mitchell Aubusson in the 12th minute – following the smart work by hooker Jake Friend and Pearce – showed what they were capable of when they excecuted better. But they failed to produce it for much of the half.
The Titans, who comparitively completed 94 percent of their first-half sets, mostly defended well when they were threatened. Tupou and second-rower Aidan Guerra were both held up within three minutes midway through the half.
With three minutes remaining in the half, the Titans appeared to have done enough to deny Pearce. The halfback spun over and referee Matt Cecchin, who had the best view of anyone in the stadium, referred the decision upstairs, while stressing his opinion was a no try. The decision was overturned by the video officials, Jason Robinson explaining: “The ball carrier keeps possession and grounds the ball on the goal line.” Most would have assumed that try would have well and truly clicked the Roosters into gear, via a halftime spray by coach Trent Robinson. But the Roosters were equally sluggish in the second half. After 50 minutes, centre Brad Takairangi’s neat footwork put him outside James Maloney, coaxed Roosters winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in, and allowed him to put his own winger Anthony Don into space. Don had far too much speed for Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello.
The momentum turned partly on an illegality after 54 minutes. Roosters prop Sam Moa appeared to lead with the head in a tackle on, ahem, Nate Myles, and made shoulder contact with the Gold Coast co-captain’s head. Myles got up limping around trying to take on anybody he could find, and Moa was placed on report. Myles was forced off the field.
The Roosters’ intensity was lifting, perhaps about time too. Five minutes later, Tupou leapt high from Maloney’s bomb and did well to keep his cool to score. Then four minutes after that try, the Roosters scored again – this time it was Moa with a more positive contribution, scoring after Williams’ superb offload. A penny for Myles thoughts as he sat on the sideline.
Yet with the Roosters in front and on top, the Titans struck late and last. With seven minutes remaining, following David Taylor’s bust, Brad Takairangi’s one-two with Falloon resulted in the centre scoring. Taylor put the exclamation point on the performance as the Roosters threw the ball around after the final siren.
GOLD COAST 30 (A Don B Falloon S Michaels B Takairangi D Taylor tries A Sezer 5 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 22 (M Aubusson S Moa M Pearce D Tupou tries J Maloney 3 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, David Munro. Crowd: 17,542.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.