Not again: DCE trumps Tedesco as Roosters’ finals hopes take another hit
If you had seen the kick, and then closed your eyes immediately, you can almost visualise Phil Gould slowly climbing out of his chair in the commentary box.
“Origin play. That’s an Origin play.”
It wasn’t an Origin game, but it didn’t matter. It had the two Origin skippers facing off against each other. Unsurprisingly, the one wearing maroon came up with the Origin play, kicking early in the tackle count, catching his NSW counterpart James Tedesco out of position, and then sprinting down the field like last drinks had just been called at the Caxton. Tedesco was collared in the in-goal by Daly Cherry-Evans and Brad Parker, and the whole momentum of the game swung.
So, let’s talk about Cherry-Evans.
Last week, he climbed up on top of a XXXX esky (what else?) in the Queensland sheds after their Origin series triumph and players without shorts on, others holding children and various family and friends stopped to listen. He could have swept Annastacia Palaszczuk from power right there and then if they handed out voting forms as the masses left Suncorp Stadium that night.
At 34, his hair might be receding but is there a more influential player for his state and club at the moment? The kick which pinned Tedesco in the in-goal wasn’t even the most impressive feat of his first half, which ended with two runaway tries, including an intercept from Luke Keary.
Which is to take nothing away from the struggling Tedesco, who had his best Roosters game for weeks, and tried his best for a little moral victory over his Origin nemesis despite the series result being done and dusted.
The game finished with the Sea Eagles scraping to an 18-16 win at 4 Pines Park on Sunday, a result which lifts them above the Roosters on the ladder and puts Trent Robinson’s men in the gun to make the finals. How can this Roosters team, with all this star power, be in as much jeopardy of missing the eight?
“I felt like it was a really strong performance, [but] I think that was pretty clear we weren’t going to get anything tonight,” Robinson said. “You could see that there was not going to be any call or any assistance there. They were obviously the perfect team in that second half and we just had to defend and we kept doing it and except for one to sort of finish it off. But the guys were epic.”
Josh Schuster threw the crucial pass to a Trbojevic — Ben — to propel the Sea Eagles ahead with 10 minutes left. Like Cherry-Evans earlier in his career, no one really knows how to take Schuster at the moment. Is he worth all that money he re-signed for earlier this week? Do his teammates trust him? He only has to look at his halves partner to know how change can be lasting.
Without Cherry-Evans, there might not have been a contest at all. He backed up a Brad Parker break and Reuben Garrick kick for the Sea Eagles’ first try and then swooped on a stray Keary pass inside his own half to give the hosts a 12-10 half-time lead after Junior Pauga and Tedesco had dotted down for the Roosters.
“I’ve said it a couple of times now, I think ‘Chez’ has been our best player this year and certainly the leadership that he’s given our group and, and myself in particular, has been outstanding,” Manly coach Anthony Seibold said. “He’s probably our best player tonight.”
Joseph Manu exacted his own revenge on Parker with a superb solo try to give the Roosters the lead early in the second half, which followed another certainty for the tricolours: Victor Radley on report. Even on an edge, he somehow managed to find trouble, clocking Taniela Paseka high, and only a grade one careless high tackle charge will stop him from being suspended again.
The final Origin plays weren’t exclusively belonging to those in maroon. Cherry-Evans’ Queensland teammate Lindsay Collins, who leapt high above Tedesco to seal the Origin series opener, can seemingly jump to stop tries as well as setting them up, pilfering a deflected Cherry-Evans kick out of the air on his own goal-line.
But it wouldn’t be fair for the last say not to belong to Cherry-Evans.
As the Sea Eagles desperately tried to repel a last Roosters’ attack on their own line in the final minute, ending with Christian Tuipulotu batting a kick dead, Manly players slumped to the ground with exhaustion, not even having a fibre left to celebrate.
One by one Cherry-Evans walked to them. Haumole Olakau’atu, Paseka, Lachlan Croker. He patted each on the back, making sure he stayed on his feet the whole time.
MANLY SEA EAGLES 18 (Daly Cherry-Evans 2, Ben Trbojevic tries; Reuben Garrick 3 goals) defeated SYDNEY ROOSTERS 16 (Junior Pauga, James Tedesco, Joseph Manu tries; Sandon Smith 2 goals) at 4 Pines Park. Referee: Ben Cummins. Crowd: 17,385.
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