Blake Ferguson is refusing to sulk after losing his spot in the NSW Blues backline, helping the Sydney Roosters continue the trend of Origin-affected teams winning in round 13 with a gripping 16-14 win over the Wests Tigers on Sunday.
The Roosters No.1's try-saving cover tackle on Wests Tigers centre Mahe Fonua sealed the deal for the home side.
Their eighth win of the season ensured they remained in the top-eight.
But it nearly went so horribly wrong. The Tigers clawed their way back from trailing 14-2 midway through the second half to rattle the Roosters 16-14 with just six minutes left, when Josh Reynolds scored a sneaky 74th minute try from dummy-half.
Then Roosters winger Daniel Tupou stepped up – after an absence of 11 weeks through a torn pectoral muscle – to make a try-saving tackle on Tigers right side winger Corey Thompson.
So that was two former NSW Origin players who saved the day.
Match: Roosters v Wests Tigers
Round 13 -
Venue: Allianz Stadium
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
Blues coach Brad Fittler opted for debutant Tom Trbojevic on the Blues right wing at Ferguson's expense. And early in Sunday's contest, it seemed he'd made the right choice.
Ferguson was having a very uncomfortable afternoon at fullback – his first there since 2016.
It included a dropped bomb, a grubber kick spinning through his legs, and a halfway restart sailing three metres over the dead-ball line. When the former Test winger leaped high to cleanly catch a bomb late in the first half, the Roosters fans let out a hearty cheer.
He made amends by kicking a conversion and a penalty from close to the left touchline in the absence of Latrell Mitchell. By the time he headed to the sheds at the break, the crowd was chanting "Fergo! Fergo!".
His round-the-corner pass for Tupou's second try in the 56th minute appeared to put the game out of the reach of the visitors. It was the type of play that helped earn Ferguson NSW Blues and Australian jerseys.
And it was also enough to help the Roosters record a memorable win.
Trent Robinson's team was missing James Tedesco, Mitchell, Boyd Cordner and Dylan Napa to Origin duties. But this weekend the Cowboys (three players) and South Sydney (four) had already shown that teams down on their representative players can still win ball games. The Roosters emphasised that point again.
The home team did have Tupou coming back into the side. His 38th-minute try was the first crucial turning point.
Teammate Luke Keary wasn't far behind in the fumbles department, losing the ball after a Luke Brooks kick in the 23rd minute. Then from the ensuing goal-line dropout, Benji Marshall dropped the ball cold. The Allianz Stadium grass was fast and dry, so no-one could blame the weather.
It was the second-best defensive team in the NRL, the Tigers, taking on the third in the Roosters. That was the biggest clue for the lowly 8-2 halftime score.
The Tigers tried hard all afternoon to cross the Tigers line and in the end prop Tim Grant [61st minute] finally got there. But it took the NRL Bunker to overturn referee Grant Atkins call that Grant hadn't grounded the Reynolds grubber kick.
Reynolds scored himself 13 minutes later to inflate hopes of a comeback win. But then Tupou and Ferguson intervened.
Both teams were on seven wins coming into this game. The Tigers now drop out of the eight as the Broncos will climb above them with the bye's two competition points.
News & Notes: The Roosters have won their last 10 games against Wests Tigers at Allianz Stadium ... the Tigers have not won at Allianz since 2012... Daniel Tupou has now scored 14 tries in 10 games against the Tigers ... Victor Radley had his first run-on start in his 12th game for the Roosters this year ... Elijah Taylor played his 150th NRL game ... David Nofoaluma (calf muscle) doesn't return for the second half ... Crowd: 11,182