It's every which way but lose for cock-up Roosters
ROOSTERS 14 RAIDERS 8
Sloppy Roosters down woeful Raiders
Joel Thompson of the Raiders avoids the tackle of Shaun Kenny-Dowall of the Roosters. Photo: Cameron Spencer
'Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing,'' the former American college football coach Henry Russell Sanders once said in a famous sports quotation that had some meaning until yesterday.
The Roosters won the game but baffled everyone as to how they did so. The only astonishing thing about the performance was that the Roosters could drop the ball so many times and still win. A 53 per cent completion rate is usually footballing suicide but yesterday it still resulted in a victory.
''How on earth you can make that many errors and win,'' Roosters coach Brian Smith said. ''Certainly in terms of holding the ball and completing sets and all that stuff, we stretched the friendship beyond all possible belief today.''
So take the tape and bury it alongside Doug Mulray's Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos, and hope the television executives fighting over the NRL broadcast rights were not watching yesterday's match with as much interest as Kerry Packer was Mulray's infamous one-off. Credit should go to the Roosters for winning the seemingly unwinnable but it should be pointed out in bold that they made more errors than they scored points.
The Roosters are now seventh on the competition table, with two wins from three matches. That is, in anyone's language, a strong start to the season. But it must be placed in context; the Roosters won their round-one match against South Sydney with three minutes of brilliance and 77 minutes of being largely dominated. Yesterday, the Roosters found some Stephen Bradbury-like fortune; as they lost possession, the Raiders lost players.
Having failed to register a point against Penrith a week earlier, the Roosters' dry spell had become so severe that, by the half-hour mark, some fans were pleading with the team to take the two points when they were 8-0 down and handed a penalty within range. Fortunately, the players did not listen, and skipper Braith Anasta scored out wide. Even though they trailed, the Roosters by that stage had the upper hand, not because they were playing well but because the Raiders were fast running out of personnel.
First, fullback Josh Dugan (shoulder) then lock Shaun Fensom (bicep) left the field. Just before half-time, the Raiders lost Trevor Thurling to a knee injury. At one stage in the second half, Fensom sat on the bench, with his busted biceps strapped up, with no one alongside him.
Still, it took the Roosters 20 minutes to finally take the lead, when centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall came up with the class play and sent super-sub Daniel Mortimer over.
Five minutes later, Mortimer bombed a try when he dropped a catchable ball from Mitchell Aubusson. It summed up the day for the Roosters; the good, the bad and the ugly. ''The first one was a bit behind me, and I did well to pull it in, and the second one was right on my chest,'' Mortimer said. ''There's no excuses.''
To their credit, the Roosters were making no excuses in general. Smith lamented the poor ball control, and conceded, with some trepidation, that a similar performance would not lead to a similar result against Melbourne next Sunday.
''Some of the stuff they're doing at the moment is off the dial,'' Smith said of the Storm. ''We'll go and have a crack at them, we know how good they can be … Certainly we've got an opportunity to show a lot of improvement on what we've done this season.''
There were fleeting moments of brilliance; Anasta's hit on a rampaging Tom Learoyd-Lahrs knocked the stuffing out of the Raiders' comeback. But while two out of three ain't bad, you can't ignore the fact that the performance still was.