Roosters look to rebuild the 'Bondi wall'
While it's too early to say that the famed 'Bondi wall' is officially back, there were enough signs during Saturday's 16-13 loss to the Melbourne Storm to suggest the Roosters have the building blocks in place to become the competition's best defensive unit after they held the premiership favourites to a penalty try for the first 77 minutes before Joe Stimson crossed late to steal the win.
After giving up 44 points to the Sharks in Round 17, the Tricolours allowed just 32 points in their next three games, only to undo that good work with a disappointing second-half fadeout against Manly that saw their line breached six times.
That result had most people tipping the Storm – the second-best attacking unit in the NRL – to run up a score against Trent Robinson's men, but despite conceding 11 penalties and committing 11 errors, the Roosters defended their line with the sort of grit and determination that has come to define them over the years.
Stimson's late four-pointer proved the difference in the end, but there were plenty of positives for the Roosters with halfback Mitchell Pearce crediting their resilience to defend their penalties as the most pleasing aspect of the narrow loss.
"I thought the best thing is that we absorbed that," he said.
"They struggled to score points, especially in that first half. It was a real defensive game and I think that set our game up and I think it gave us a lot of confidence for the backend of the year going into the finals.
"I think each week we're starting to build. I think the Cowboys game and the way we finished, there were some really good signs there in defence, and then on the weekend I think we showed some finals footy and we're every chance to have a crack.
"You don't win the comp unless your defence is in the top two. I think at the moment we're doing a good job with that but when the pressure comes on, that's when it really matters. I think any success we've had in the past has been on the back of our defence."
Pearce's comments certainly ring true when you look at the Roosters' recent success that saw them claim three minor premierships in a row.
In 2013, they had the competition's best defence, allowing just 325 points. They were ranked second in 2014 (385) and reclaimed top spot the following year having conceded a miserly 300 points in the regular season.
One performance won't define a season, and co-captain Boyd Cordner wants his side to build on that defensive effort as they attempt to secure a top four finish heading into the finals series.
"Everyone knows how good of an attacking team they are with their structure and everything so it was very pleasing," Cordner said of the Storm game.
"Our defence was a lot better than it was last week, but we still lost so it does hurt. In the end it wasn't good enough and we'll be working from here on in and using that as a bit of motivation to get us better going into finals."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM