NRL Finals Week 2 – Roosters v Bulldogs: Video killed the Rugby League show

National Rugby League Semi Final 1

Eastern Suburbs Roosters v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Allianz Stadium, Moore Park

8pm 18th September 2015

 

Tonight, for the second year in a row, the minor premier Roosters have to run the Week 2 gauntlet after losing their qualifying semi last week. Now they have to face a club which always steps up a class in the finals, a time the Bulldogs become the Dogs of War.

Unlike last week, however, the gathering crowd for tonight’s match is massive. While this stadium is the regular season home ground for the Roosters, it is fair to say over three quarters of this crowd are here for the Dogs.

Someone at NRL headquarters must have been reading the Almanac, as the on-field fireworks immediately before kick-off have been dispensed with. They still have the flame throwers firing as the teams run out, but the air is much clearer when the Dogs kick the game off.

The first few sets and Canterbury are dominating the opening exchanges. In the 4th minute they spread it wide to the left, but the pass from Moses Mbye goes behind Curtis Rona and into touch. It’s a break the Roosters need to try and get into this game.

They get another break when from what looked to be a knock on to me is ruled to be a restart of the set of six, they’re on a roll and on the final tackle of the restarted set are awarded a penalty next to the goal posts. Maloney kicks the goal and they have a 2-0 lead in the 9th minute.

From the kickoff the Roosters march the ball up over halfway and Hastings puts up a high bomb kick. It comes down 15 metres from the goal line where Blake Ferguson gets to it first and deliberately knocks it back where Shaun Kenny-Dowall scoops it up and scores the try in the right hand corner. Maloney converts and suddenly the Roosters are out to an eight point lead after 11 minutes.

The Dogs need a big play to get back into the game and Tim Lafai’s kick off is a low line-drive towards the touch line and the Roosters can’t field it. From the scrum they are awarded a penalty on the first tackle, but they choose to tap it and go for a try but they knock it on only two plays later. James Maloney runs off a Sam Moa short pass and suddenly the Roosters are behind the Dogs’ defence again.

The momentum from the initial exchange has totally changed and Dylan Napa breaks through the defence and crashes over the try line but Brett Morris holds him up enough to slow his momentum and Napa drops the ball before reaching the ground.

Daniel Tupou knocks only 20 metres out from his own line, Canterbury set up the play to the left, Mbye puts in a grubber to the in-goal. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is there to knock it into touch but he’s had an air-swing and Curtis Rona appears to have grounded the ball. Another referral to the video ref and while he was the first to touch it, he has knocked it on. No try.

Daniel Tupou is clearly pushed into touch before reaching the try line, but for some reason the referee has again gone to the video. This is beyond a joke. There is the theory that the NRL are under a contractual arrangement to give maximum exposure to the video sponsor, KFC. I don’t normally buy into such a conspiracy, but then I see the major sponsor of the Roosters is Steggles, the major supplier to KFC. The reach of Nick Politis knows no bounds.

Boyd Cordner breaks the line by literally running over Josh Reynolds. Reynolds is clearly affected by the hit, but he backs up an attacking run from Kassiano and puts a perfect pass to Tim Lafai for him to score 15 metres in from touch. Lafai shanks the conversion and for the final 12 minutes to half time the score is 8-4.

The second half opens with more mistakes from both sides. Moses Mbye gets turned in a tackle but fails to turn back around and plays the ball towards the Roosters.

In the 51st minute Kane Evans is held up before the try line. His momentum has been stopped with four defenders on him. Surprisingly the referee has made a referral to the video saying he believes it’s a try. In the tangle of arms and legs it is almost impossible to prove conclusively this is or isn’t a try. The big green TRY flashes on the screen and the crowd erupts. It seems impossible the player wasn’t held before the line and he got the ball to the try line with a double movement effort.

The NRL have a massive problem on their hands. It just seems incongruous to all watching the game that was a try. It has had an impact on the flow of the game as it has knocked the Bulldogs off their game and suddenly the Roosters have broken the line again and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is running downfield and leaving Brett Morris behind him to score next to the posts. Suddenly it’s 20-4.

What was an intense, close game, is now blown out, not because one team or one individual has made the difference, but because of a refereeing decision that has everyone shaking their heads.

The Bulldogs are out on their feet. Their fans are the majority of the just posted attendance figure of 35,711. Frank Pritchard breaks down the left and before you know it, the Dogs of War – finals specialists, he passes inside to Brett Morris and he pops it up for Damien Cook and he scores to the left of the posts. Tim Brown, a prop forward, attempts the conversion and he misses. It should only be an eight point game if the Dogs could kick straight. Instead the difference is two converted tries. It will be the comeback of the season for them to overcome this now.

65th minute and from the first goal line drop out of the game Shaun Kenny-Dowall crashes over in the right hand corner. It’s clearly a try, but again we’re off to the KFC/Steggles replay to further delay the game. Maloney kicks his fifth goal from as many attempts and this game is all over as the Dogs need to score four times in the next 14 minutes. It’s not going to happen.

The big question now is will the Roosters stick with Jackson Hastings at halfback, he’s done well in the pressure of the first two finals, for the Preliminary Final in Brisbane or will they rush Mitchell Pearce back into the team. If they were smart, they’d stick with Hastings.

Late tries to Boyd Cordner, Kenny-Dowall and Curtis Rona blows the final score to 38-12.

Next week the Broncos will host the Roosters while Melbourne Storm will host either North Queensland Cowboys or Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in the Preliminary Finals.

About Wayne Ball

Tragic fan of the Australian and NSW cricket teams (for those of you outside NSW, there is a difference, despite what David Hookes said). Not a fan of T20. Penrith Panthers are the only club of decency and all which is good in Rugby League, the Waratah's were once the national team of Rugby Union, the first non Victorian team in the VFL/AFL is the Sydney Swans, and they all enjoy my passionate support. Sings for Wanderers. Internationally, I have been to see the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers play. One day, I'll see Norwich City play for the FA Cup at Wembley.

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