The Roosters have held off the fast finishing Cowboys, to scrape home 26-20. In doing so, the tricolours were able to exact revenge on the team who eliminated them in last year’s second preliminary final. However, they missed the chance to leapfrog the Storm into second place.
For the Cowboys, it was another case of so near, yet so far. Although they are not at the bottom of the ladder, the loss has seen them become level again on points with the last placed Eels.
It may have been a win, however, the Chooks will need to improve drastically for next week, when they take on fierce rivals, the Rabbitohs. Here are five things we learned from the match:
1 Not pretty, but a win is a win
Prior to this match, the Roosters were raging hot favourites to not only win this match, but even rack up a cricket score on the Cowboys. It’s easy to see why this was the case, given the vividly contrasting forms of each side. The Roosters have been almost unstoppable since Anzac Day, dropping only 2 matches since, to sit in 3rd place. Conversely, despite their dramatic drought breaking win over the Knights last week, the Cowboys have had the season from hell, falling well short of a finals place, where they were expected to feature prominently in.
The first 20 minutes saw each team trade tries (Latrell Mitchell and Joseph Manu for the Chooks, Jason Taumalolo for the Cows), as the Roosters would eventually head into the break 16-8 up. And by the 55 minute mark, it seemed a mere formality that the Roosters would go on with the job, as they established a 26-8 lead, courtesy of tries to Blake Ferguson and Daniel Tupou.
However, the Cowboys simply refused to lay down, and would not have to wait very long for their next try, which came about through superstar Johnathan Thurston. By the 65th minute, they were only a converted try down, as JT’s right-hand man, Gavin Cooper found the try line, thanks to some bustling brilliance by Taumalolo. The Cows would spend the next 15 minutes pressing for an equalising try, but to no avail.
As such, the Roosters players and supporters had breathed a major sigh of relief, as they eventually overcame a spirited Cowboys outfit, to come away with the competition points and consolidate their top 4 position. However, this scrappy win meant they failed to capitalise on the Storm’s loss to the Rabbitohs on Friday, as they drew level on points with the Storm. Six more points would have seen them in 2nd place. On the flip side, the tricolours were able to exact revenge on the team who embarrassed them in last year’s preliminary finals.
2 Cronk vs Thurston lived up to its billing
Despite the contrasting fortunes of the two sides, one intriguing factor worth the price of admission for this game was the matchup between great mates and former Queensland Origin halves pairing of Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston. JT’s retirement at season’s end means that this would be the final time that the champion halves would go head-to-head.
What transpired in this thriller of a match lived up to its billing. Despite missing his halves partner Luke Keary to injury, Cronk ensured his kicking game would see off the challenge of the Cowboys and guide the Roosters home. He also threw the perfect cut-out ball for winger Daniel Tupou to cross out wide for the tricolours. For JT, it was his try that brought the Cows back into the match, as the maestro produced his trademark show-and-go to weave his way through the Roosters’ defence. He also produced a sublime pass to send rampaging back rower Coen Hess into space. Unfortunately, it was to no avail, as his team fell just short. Despite the loss, JT surpassed the great Andrew Johns, to move into 3rd in the all-time point scorers list, kicking his 900th premiership goal in the process.
In true mateship, Cronk and JT embraced after the siren, as they showed appreciation for each other’s league careers. Moreover, Roosters skipper Boyd Cordner presented JT with a framed match ball as a momento of his final match against the Roosters. In a further act of true sentimentality, the Chooks performed a guard of honour and applauded JT, as he made his way down the tunnel.
3 Where was this effort all season Cowboys?
There is no question that this was an incredibly brave effort by the Cowboys, as they eventually went down to the Roosters. Despite falling 26-8 behind by the 55th minute, the Cows simply refused to surrender meekly, as they made the Chooks work for the competition points, giving them an almighty fright and nearly forcing the game into golden point.
As well as forcing their way back into the match, the Cowboys completed 97% of their sets, conceded fewer penalties, made fewer errors, and made more line breaks. Their 97% completion rate saw them perform more like the 2017 side, who had the best completion rate of any team at the time. In addition, they were able to score 20 points against the best defensive team, while finding multiple holes in their normally reliable defence. Moreover, Jason Taumalolo had amassed 191 metres, scoring a barnstorming try, and setting one up for Gavin Cooper.
Whilst Cowboys fans will be heartened by their team’s rediscovered never-say-die attitude, given their dramatic win last week and their brave efforts this week, they will also be asking where this effort has been all season. Rightly so, given they only ever completed at 80% or over on 4 occasions (never completing at 90% or more). In addition, once they fall more than 2 converted tries behind, they have seldom made much of a comeback. Moreover, there is more class in this Cowboys team, than their lowly position suggests. There is minimal doubt that had they completed their sets more consistently, and dug deeper than they have all year, they would have won more matches and even found themselves in the top 8.
4 Cowboys avoid last place, at least for the time being
Despite how impressive and brave they were, the end result means that the Cowboys finish the match empty handed. This means that they are now back in a real tussle with the Eels to avoid the wooden spoon. Prior to this match, the Eels had disposed of the Titans 28-12. This meant the pressure had mounted on the Cowboys to upset the Roosters, and jump clear of the last placed Eels. With a difference of 24 points between the Cowboys (-100) and the Eels (-124), a loss by over 24 points would have seen the men from the tropics relegated to the foot of the ladder.
Despite the Cows giving a reasonably good account of themselves during the match, it appeared that their efforts would be in vain, as they found themselves 26-8 down by the 55 minute mark. As such, the Roosters seemed destined to rack up a score on the luckless Cowboys. However, the character they displayed here brought them back into the match, only to fall short by a converted try. Whilst the Cows would eventually lose the match, they only lost by 6 points, meaning their points differential is still superior to that of the Eels. Moreover, they stay off the bottom of the ladder for at least another week.
However, next week is massive for the Cowboys, as they face off with big brother, the Broncos in the 50th instalment of the Queensland Derby. The significance of aforementioned derby has heightened, as the Cowboys must really win this match, and at least hope the Eels lose to the Dragons, in order to avoid last place.
5 Drastic improvements must be made by the Roosters
The Roosters may have won this match, as expected. However, they were made to work very hard for their win, as the Cowboys mounted a strong fight back, and came perilously close to nabbing an unlikely win. The Cows were able to make more line breaks than the Chooks, and also completed their sets better, finishing with a near-perfect completion rate of 97%. Conversely, the Roosters’ completion rate finished at 83%, as they made 11 errors, to the Cows’ 5. They were also nearly made to pay for their lapses in concentration, in allowing the Cowboys back into the match. Any of their fellow top 4 rivals would have really punished them for their concentration lapses.
As such, drastic improvements must be high on the agenda for the tricolours during training this week. This is especially because they up against the ladder leaders and bitter rivals, the Rabbitohs next week. The Rabbitohs are riding high after toppling the seemingly invincible Storm last Friday, and have already claimed victory in their first meeting with the Roosters this season. It goes without saying that if the Roosters submit a performance resembling this one, they could be in for a long night against their old adversaries.
On the flip side for the tricolours, lethal centre Latrell Mitchell was superb yet again. Mitchell proved the difference between his side and the Cowboys, as he scored the majority of his side’s points (one try and 5 goals), as well as finishing with 7 busts. All Mitchell needs to do next week is more of the same, and he could really terrorise the Rabbitohs.
What did you learn from the Rooster's narrow win over the Cowboys? Let us know in the comments below.
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