Just 5 days after a strong win at Gosford it was back up the clogged F3 for a massive step up facing against a desperate Souths in front of a capacity crowd. Could we deliver win no 7 on the trot and silence the doubters on our top 4 ability?
Brett Stewart: Always safe under pressure but never seemed to have the room to open up the throttle. When Brett doesn't score it's always a worry.
Jorge Taufau: Strong when needed, included the brick wall dive for the first half try, but not sighted too often in the 2nd half.
Steve Matai: So nearly gave us a vice like grip on the match with that critical crunching dive over the line for a try, only to see it disallowed and become the match turner. A busy night but well defended against.
Jamie Lyon: Like Stevie also held up critically over the line in the 2nd half, in his case so clearly it didn't even need a replay. Busy but also well contained.
David Williams: Could have been a hero save for a miraculous Inglis tackle to deny yet another critical try opportunity in the corner, albeit off a pass 2 metres forward.
Kieran Foran: Did some good things but better days ahead.
Daly Cherry-Evans: Ran the whole beautifully for the opening try, and as always never stopped trying all night.
Glenn Stewart: Continues his resurgence, strong game but up against an even stronger pack.
Justin Horo: Not his best performance with a couple of errors, but THAT high shot penalty placed on report for simply grabbing Inglis' jersey collar was an absolute shocking decision.
Anthony Watmough: After taking 3 days to walk off the park last Sunday ran back out there last night. I'm not sure how either, but a godsend with another 130 metres in 63 tough minutes. Hope the leg is ok after the disgraceful bleeding obvious illegal twist from Lima that MUST SURELY see a suspension.
Brenton Lawrence: 7 runs for 74 metres. Where was he?
Matt Ballin: 48 machine like tackles but next to nothing from dummy half. You only have to study Isaac Luke to see what we're missing there.
Brent Kite: Ditto Lawrence with 7 runs for 70 metres indicating our engine room were silently outgunned.
Jamie Buhrer: Worked hard but size an issue against the Bunnies in making any real impact.
Richie Fa-aoso: 27 minutes seemed an oddly low number when we needed all the muscle we could find against their monster pack.
David Gower: 12 minutes too few to make a comment.
George Rose: 13 minutes indicates Toov's went for speed not size.
The very strong start leading to a 60 minute domination, and despite getting run over in the last 20, never giving up. Yes we lost, but we haven't been beaten badly in a single game all year when we tossed it in or got trounced, something barely any other team in the comp can boast.
Toov's said before the game it wasn't critical to win tonight (in an obvious reference to our 6 consecutive wins and solid top 4 position). Hmmm, well maybe it wasn't critical, but it would have made a very nice statement. Our top 4 creds now sit at Roosters x 2 losses, Souths x 2 losses, Melbourne x 1 draw. Sure we can, (and I believe WILL turn that around in September), but we let a vital opportunity to send a message slip away. Disappointing is a word that comes to mind.
I love Toov's like a brother, but seriously blaming the refs for the loss is an angry excuse in hiding behind the real reasons we lost tonight.
Obviously the 10-5 penalty count was a damaging blow, but the bulk of them were due to our poor discipline. Yes of course the Horo penalty was an insanely ridiculous on report shocker for a simple tug at Inglis' shirt collar, but really seriously did that cost us the game? Are Perenara and Hayne that bad? Did any of the penalties actually cost us the game?
Let's be honest enough and face the truth.
WE LOST THE 2ND HALF 16-0.
Why? Here's 5 reasons.
Problem 1. We had not one, not two, but three 2nd half tries go against us. A potential 18 points that would have won us the match.
Yes the Matai one was bloody unlucky, it sure looked like he scored, but despite all the howling there was sadly no angle to 100% prove it, so that's NOT the on field refs' fault, he can only call what he can see (or in this case couldn't possibly see with bodies on top and the look of a hand underneath Matai and the ball, so he has to go to the video ref, who in turn had no angle to say yes that ball is absolutely 100% on the line. Unlucky yes, but we'd have been livid if it was on the other foot and THEY were given a try in that instance. As for the other two, the Jamie held up call was so obvious he sprinted back before even waiting for a replay, and the Wolfie miss in the corner was a clearly miraculous tackle from Inglis, despite the blatant forward pass in any case.
Problem 2. Reynolds drop out into touch was a genius play giving them killer momentum, and we just weren't awake to it.
Problem 3. They had a MASSIVE stroke of luck with Luke's grubber hitting the post and stopping dead in front of Inglis. What a fluke turning point that was.
Problem 4. We just didn't get our 1-7 engine going like we have in the last 6 weeks. Lack of back line execution, lack of our forwards dominance, or just way stronger Souths defence than anything we've faced for some time? All three in equal parts for mine.
Problem 5. In the last critical 20 minutes they had a focused eye on the win, but perhaps (as per Toov's pre game comment) we had a slightly wandering eye on September.
We had the game in our hands for 60 mins, despite giving away a ridiculous tally of penalties, but couldn't put a winning stamp on it and send a September message. Three 2nd half tries could have gone our way on a luckier day but that's footy, and Souths determined defence was very good. Have a look at George Burgess' stats. The man is a monster.
A real pity. But a killer blow? No way. There's a stack of improved fuel in our tank and September revenge will only taste all the more sweeter.
Toov's knows it, and hey just maybe he was even outfoxing everyone including us die hards by cleverly holding the boys back a little, but I guarantee come September we will be the team with the KILLER look in our eyes.
Onwards and upwards.