Sunday afternoon’s game between the Roosters and the Eels at Allianz was one of those matches where the dominant team on the ladder turned out to be the dominant team on the field, as the hosts came away with a decimating 48-10 victory over Parramatta. While that made for some great try scoring spectacles, it was just the slightest bit anticlimactic after a weekend of such unpredictable wins – Titans over Storm, Knights over Raiders and, above all, Panthers over Warriors.
From the beginning, the Roosters looked like the team that was destined to win, playing their freest-flowing footy in some time and always on the verge of breaking the Eels’ defensive line. Most of their players were firing on all fronts, although this will probably come to be seen as a real watershed game for Luke Keary in particular, who bookended the first stanza by setting up Latrell Mitchell on the left edge four minutes in and Blake Ferguson on the right edge four minutes before the siren (his second of three), in a rousing pair of tries for the last match of Indigenous Round.
Mitchell’s try felt all the more cathartic in that it signalled his return to first grade after a couple of weeks up the coast, as well as representing his first really decisive on-field moment in the wake of James Tedesco’s announcement that he intends to take up the mantle as Roosters fullback next year. It also set the scene for the Roosters’ eighty-minute surge, with a great run from Jared Waerea-Hargreaves up the right side almost making it to the line, only for the big man to pass it over to Mitchell Pearce who managed a quick offload to Jake Friend for a second four-pointer at the tenth minute.
Twenty minutes later, Daniel Tupou brought home the first of his two tries of the night thanks to a nifty intercept that allowed him to showcase his litheness with a run down the field. Four minutes after halftime, Tupou would also stamp the second stanza as the Roosters’ own, after Mitchell strode through the Parra line and passed on the inside to Keary, who got it over to Michael Gordon for a great dodging run only for Pearce to take control and set up Tupou for another shot
Still, it was Blake Ferguson who put the most points on the board, in his fifth career hat trick. Six minutes after Tupou first crashed over, Keary shot out a looping harbour bridge pass on the right wing that sailed over Michael Jennings and Kirisome Auva’a to find Fergo at just the right time. If it seemed like Fergo had been set up for an easy try, he did it all by himself ten minutes from the end, as he was lifted clean in the air by Semi Radradra and Nathan Brown but managed to reach out and ground the ball before losing possession.
In fact, you could almost argue that he had lost possession, since it was a matter of milliseconds, and a classic Fergo try, with the defenders seeming to arriving in time only for the wily winger to suddenly amp up the energy to contort himself, gymnast-like, around and through the tackle to land the ball in the most improbable way – or what would be the most improbable way if Ferguson hadn’t made this kind of four-pointer his stock in trade.
Over the next ten minutes, the Roosters left no room for doubters, as Ferguson once again showed his mettle by outplaying both Michael Jennings and Manu M’au under a great high ball from Keary, popping it back to Joseph Manu, who was just where he needed to be to bring the Roosters their seventh try. Four minutes later, Fergo added the goods with another four-pointer of his own, following a pass from Mitchell to Manu that formed a nice symmetry with the setup minutes before.
If Fergo’s previous try seemed close, then this one was even closer – it was originally called no try only for the Bunker to reverse the decision, and watching the footage just reiterated how freakishly precise Ferguson can be at his very best. To add insult to injury, it came off the back of Semi Radradra – another player whose precision is almost unmatched at his very best – coughing up yet another one of Keary’s dangerous bombs, and the Parramatta players couldn’t have been more dejected, even if Gordon didn’t manage (or need) to add the extras.
That’s not to say, however, that Parra didn’t manage to deliver anything at all. Their first try, at the twenty-third minute, was a real testament to their left edge, as Norman copped a brutal tackle from Dylan Napa while still managing to pass the Steeden on to Gutherson, where it moved from Radradra to Jennings in turn. In a great sequel and set piece, Jenko ran the length of the field before passing back over to his fullback to finish off, as Gutherson almost fumbled the pass only to bring it to ground with conviction.
Similarly, some great footwork – and some great left pivots in particular – allowed Jenko to run right over from the wing to plant the ball under the posts twenty minutes out from the end, in a display of dexterity and calm judgement that rivalled Ferguson for one brief second. It was too little too late however, and with both Gutherson and Norman taken off in the second half – Gutherson for an HIA, Norman with a possible ligament injury – the Eels’ fate was sealed.
It’ll be interesting, then, to see how Parra cope against the Raiders this weekend, since they desperately need a way to return to the spirit of their four-game winning streak, and might just catch Canberra in a state of disarray after their shock loss to Newcastle the same day. On the other side of the Steeden, the Roosters should have a pretty easy job of it against the Bulldogs at ANZ on Sunday, although it’s important that their win over the Eels doesn’t make them complacent either, and that they give everything they’ve got to continuing this winning surge.