The Cowboys showed a lot of fight in coming from behind twice in the second half to beat a Roosters side that would refuse to give up, despite being dominated for large parts of the match. Yet again, the Cowboys’ big players stood up when it mattered, while the Roosters underwhelmed on the big stage.
1. Michael Morgan is the man with a plan
Morgan has come into his own this season in Johnathan Thurston’s absence and with performances like last night, it is no wonder that Roosters coach Trent Robinson labelled him “the best player in the world right now”.
His early 40/20 was the lift that the Cowboys needed to set the tone for the match. While that didn’t lead to points, his pinpoint last tackle kicks ensured his side were able to pick up repeated sets, heaping pressure on the Roosters, who had to make 90 tackles more than their opposition.
Early in the second half, he threw a crisp pass to set up to Kane Linnett for a try that brought the Cowboys back into the lead. And late in the game, he calmly slotted the field goal which more or less sealed the match for his side. The man is running red hot going into the decider.
2. Jason Taumalolo rules the roost
Although it’s all part of the pre-match mind games, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves’ statement to bring his opposite number Jason Taumalolo into the spotlight backfired.
While they didn’t come up against each other physically too often, Taumalolo’s big game mentality came to the fore as the beast made 21 runs for a colossal 256 metres. One of those runs attracted no more than four defenders, who struggled to get back to the line for the next play which saw Linnett score. He was just as active in defence, making 26 tackles, as the Roosters were confined to a number of goal-line drop-outs.
3. Waerea-Hargreaves underwhelms
He’s had a solid season for the Tricolours but last night was a tough one for Waerea-Hargreaves.
An early high shot led to a simple penalty goal for Ethan Lowe while a needless penalty following the Mitchell return kick blunder also brought another two points at a crucial juncture.
He worked hard to make 41 tackles but, unfortunately, one of the tackles he missed led to an early try for Te Maire Martin to open the scoring.
And in contrast to Taumalolo, Waerea-Hargreaves only managed 68 run metres for the match, well short of his best.
4. Te Maire Martin provides a glimpse into the Cowboys’ future
He left Penrith on a whim earlier this season and wouldn’t have been anywhere near playing his 18th NRL match if not for Thurston’s season-ending injury. However, Martin showed what he is capable of last night with a lovely run in the early stages of the match, breaking the line and beating off tackles from Mitchell Pearce and Warea-Hargreaves on his way to scoring the opening try.
He only made four runs for 65 metres last night however he made three tackle breaks in the process, showcasing his elusive skills. With Morgan in sublime form at present, this could be a potent halves combination for the Cowboys going into next season and beyond.
5. The Cowboys need to be more clinical
The Cowboys dominated the first half, yet still conceded a late try to go up 8-6 heading into the break. Their completion rate was markedly better than the Roosters, at 90% to 68%.
And while they headed the statistics comfortably in terms of runs and run metres, line breaks, tackle breaks and less tackles, this did not reflect the scoreline at all until the last quarter, where they were still trailing by 14-16. It was only then that they pressed home their advantage with the Roosters’ fatigue also playing a part.
They may have been allowed to do that against the Roosters but the Storm will be an entirely different proposition.As the Storm proved on Friday against the Broncos, they can play hard football for 50 minutes and then take the match away from the opposition. If the Cowboys cannot convert their dominance into points, they can expect a very tough Grand Final.
6. Latrell Mitchell will be better for the experience
There’s no doubt that Mitchell can be a future star in the game if he plays to his potential as he did this season. But coming off a starring role in a big game against the Broncos, he failed to back it up last night, with several costly errors.
He opened the Roosters account with a crucial try for the second time in two weeks late in the second half, plucking the ball from a high kick and scoring in the corner.
However, in the second half he provided an obstruction on Linnett which would have been a four-pointer for Ryan Matterson.
Mitchell’s big boot also came to his detriment, as he kicked the ball dead from not one but two re-starts, gifting the Cowboys field possession. On the second occasion, the Roosters conceded a penalty from the subsequent set, which gave the Cowboys a crucial six-point lead late in the second half. That came after he had fallen slightly off his line to allow Kyle Feldt to touch down in the corner for his fifth try in five weeks.
What were your highlights from the Cowboys’ shock win over the Roosters? Let us know in the comments below.
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