Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Roosters crow in Sydney

Roosters Anthony Minichiello cuts through the Warriors defence. Photo / Getty Images
Roosters Anthony Minichiello cuts through the Warriors defence. Photo / Getty Images

Roosters 26
Warriors 8

If last week's match was their best effort of the season, last night's game was without a doubt the Warriors' worst of 2012.

They barely came to play in the first half against a fired-up Roosters outfit and their now traditional mini-comeback in the second half fell way short.

The Warriors were fortunate to trail only 16-4 at halftime and, despite an improved effort in the second half, the Roosters always looked in control. The Warriors had missed 30 tackles by halftime and five knock-ons did nothing to help their cause.

They were physically dominated up front and were plagued by a series of handling errors; Shaun Johnson was targeted on defence and had a quiet game offensively, the Warriors centres were unconvincing on attack and defence and Feleti Mateo struggled to get into the match.

On this evidence, it is difficult to be confident about the clash with Canberra next week, though this team has the ability to turn things around quickly.

But at the moment, they have a soft underbelly on defence (missing over 200 tackles in five matches) and look predictable on attack.

In a season already defined by poor starts, this was the worst beginning to a game yet. There was a noticeable lack of urgency and accuracy from the Warriors, and any confidence the Roosters had lost after getting smashed by the Storm last week was quickly regained. Coach Brian Smith was looking for his 300th NRL win and his players were determined to oblige.

The Warriors defence lacked structure and sting and too many one-on-one tackles were missed. Before this match, they were the worst offenders in this area, with 164 misses in four rounds, and Smith was quick to exploit, directing plenty of traffic at the Warriors halves pairing of Johnson and James Maloney as well as the fragile left edge.

Compounding the defensive woes was a listless performance in possession, with no respect for the ball and a series of fundamental schoolboy-like handling errors.

When the team clicks, they have the potential to be brilliant, but weak performances like this won't do anything for their belief and confidence.

Sam Rapira's trouble-free return was one of the few positives, while Glen Fisiiahi got few chances to shine in a team going backwards.

Where the Warriors were poor in the first spell, the Roosters were full of passion and purpose. They were offloading almost at will and dominated at the ruck, with Kiwis Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Jared Warea-Hargreaves particularly prominent, though a high shot by the latter on Ukuma Ta'ai was not one of his better moments.

The Roosters got a confidence boosting start, with Shaun Kenny-Dowall continuing his golden try-scoring run against the Warriors with a try in the fifth minute. Defensively, the Warriors were fragile in the first quarter, particularly on the left edge, and the Roosters nearly scored twice more, denied only by the video referee.

When Mitchell Aubusson shrugged off a weak Johnson tackle to force his way over in the 22nd minute, it was all the Roosters deserved. Worse was to come, more mistakes in possession from the visitors, more hesitant, half-hearted Warriors defence, and the Sydney side were over again, Anthony Mitchell showing great agility to reach a grubbered kick millimetres before the dead ball line.

After a rare Roosters mistake and in just their second spell in the opposition red zone, the Warriors finally got on the scoreboard, Jerome Ropati notching his 50th NRL try after a clever offload from Lewis Brown. The inevitable improvement came in the second half and Fisiiahi showed a glimpse of his potential, running off Maloney's hip and scorching 50m to score in the 59th minute but they couldn't capitalise on further chances late in the match.

Roosters 26 (S. Kenny-Dowall, M. Aubusson, A. Mitchell, A. Minichiello tries; B. Anasta 5 goals); Warriors 8 (J. Ropati, G. Fisiiahi tries). Halftime:16-4.

- Herald on Sunday

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