The Match Report from tonight's Sydney Roosters 2015 season-opener against the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville:
It was end-to-end footy in the opening five minutes of the match with both sides big men playing roles as Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Moa went toe-to-toe with Matt Scott and Ben Hannant of the Cowboys with all in the thick of the action early on.
The Cowboys through Johnathan Thurston seemed to target Daniel Tupou early on in the match, pressuring the incumbent NSW Blues wing in forcing him to work it out from deep in his left edge corner on each last play option.
A Justin O’Neill error on a Mitchell Pearce bomb in the 8th minute gave the first real opportunity of the half and despite Blake Ferguson going close early on in the set it was that man Tupou that answered back to the home sides pressure and crossed in the left corner. It was a Pearce and James Maloney combination that saw Michael Jennings show his fancy footwork before offloading for Tupou to score and take the lead.
Maloney couldn’t add the extras from the sideline and the away side’s lead remained at just four points with 11 minutes on the clock.
A 15th minute incident involving a Thurston attempted trip on fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was dubious and despite being missed by on-field officials could face potential scrutiny from the Match Review Committee.
An 18th minute mix-up in-goal with an awkward bounce evading Shaun Kenny-Dowall the video referee was called upon for the first time in the night as Gavin Cooper came up claiming a try.
It eventuated that Kenny-Dowall had intact saved the day with a “go-go gadget” reach out to force a goal-line drop out, which Antonio Winterstein of the Cowboys dropped handing the Roosters a scrum on halfway which was followed with a penalty to start their set on the home sides 20m line.
The set finished with an almost deja vu like moment, for Roosters Fans who saw the 2013 Grand Final win, as Michael Jennings flew through the Cowboys line to dive on a Pearce grubber and score the visitors second for the night, which Maloney converted from next to the uprights.
Deja vu again, however for Fans at tonight’s match, as another dropped bomb from O’Neill in the 24th minute saw the Roosters again pack a scrum just 10m out and it was again Pearce’s boot that dropped the perfect grubber through the line for hometown boy Aidan Guerra to latch onto and spin out of the Cowboys defence to crash over the line and score. Maloney converted and the Bondi boys were out to a 16-0 lead.
The Cowboys kick-off to follow sailed over the Roosters deadball line, handing the Roosters a start to their set on the home sides 30m line.
The ball was shifted wide to the right late in the ensuing set and the Captain Pearce found Tuivasa-Sheck who ducked, stepped and weaved his way through the Cowboys line to score. The video referee was called upon for the second time of the night and with new boy Blake Ferguson ruled to have obstructed Thurston the try was denied.
The first real threat the home side gave the Tricolours wasn’t until half an hour into the match when a switch play between Michael Morgan and Robert Lui forced a repeat set as Tuivasa-Sheck was called upon to clean up in-goal.
The home side again threatened the line as momentum built, however the ‘Bondi Wall’ held strong as they were denied in going wide. However a Kenny-Dowall mistake while working the ball out of the half handed the Cowboys a scrum feed just 30m shy of his side’s line.
It wasn’t long before the Roosters were in again as the ball was shifted wide to the left through Pearce and Maloney once again before the five-eighth switched it inside for Tuivasa-Sheck who brushed off Lui to burst through. Morgan pressure at fullback saw him forced to find Cordner inside for the Kangaroos backrower to score under the sticks. The positioning allowed Maloney an easy shot at goal to extend the lead to 22 just before the half time break.
There was an edge-of-the-seat moment finish to the half as interchange forward Kane Evans burst 40m for the Roosters after pushing off Thurston and Cowboys prop James Tamou, however the Fijian international fumbled the ball at the last effort 20m shy of the home side’s line.
A late penalty in the first half handed the Cowboys one last throw of the dice which they couldn’t take and the Roosters headed into the sheds with a 22-0 lead.
Cowboys fullback Morgan injected himself into the backbone close to the Roosters line in the opening minutes of the second half and in reaching out to score dropped the ball at the critical moment.
The big boys were in the thick of it again early on in the second half but it was Roosters centre Ferguson who showed the way with a big hit on former Chook Kane Linnett in the 50th minute forcing an error that had the high-fives and bum-taps going.
The Cowboys next attacking set and it was Ferguson that ended it once again with a diving effort on a loose ball following a Gavin Cooper attempted offload just metres from the line.
It was Morgan again causing issues for the visitors with a neatly placed grubber in the 53rd minute forcing a small panic at the back for Tuivasa-Sheck and Tupou, who eventually defused the situation and forced a drop out.
The Cowboys continued to target Tupou down the Roosters left wing but the NSW winger was up to the task deep in the visitors try-line territory.
Tupou's efforts, especially a 54th minute high-flying leap, were in vain as a Maloney pass found Matt Scott as Tuivasa-Sheck fumbled the ball on the Roosters try-line and crashed over the line. A look from the video referee saw that Scott had dropped the ball over the line and forced a drop out.
Just before the hour mark the Tricolours new No.1 was in the thick of it again with a falling catch defusing a bomb on his own line before running 60m and setting the 1300 SMILES Stadium stands alight.
Just a minute later and the stands were on fire again with anger this time however as the home sides Fans watched Maloney step off the left foot and break through the Cowboys line inside Glenn Hall and race 20m before finding Cordner for his second of the night.
Maloney converted and the bondi boys lead was 28-0 with less twenty minutes remaining.
The Cowboys managed to save the embarrassment of a zero scoreline as O'Neill crossed for their first of the new year out wide in the 69th minute after some skillful lead up play from Thurston and Morgan. The halfback wasn't able to covert and the Rooster lead was 24-points with ten minutes remaining.
The Cowboys continued their tactic of playing testing the Roosters through the middle before putting the wingers under pressure late in the count but to no avail and that's where the score remained, Roosters winners 28 points to 4.