Bulldogs v Roosters: Five Key Points
Halves battle fails to deliver, the rise and fall of James Graham and the excitement of a nation over one Roosters fullback headline the Tricolours' 24-10 win over the Bulldogs.
The battle between the halves didn't amount to much
What was supposed to be as legitimate a selection trial as the annual City v Country clash amounted to not much at all.
Between Roosters halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney and Bulldogs playmakers Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson, we were supposed to know who would represent the Blues on Wednesday week but yet it still remains very much in the air.
While the Roosters won, it came off the back of Jake Friend and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and if the words of the victorious coach Trent Robinson are anything to go by then perhaps the 'Battle of the Halves' was never going to have direct bearing on NSW selection.
"I think, as we all probably think, Laurie [New South Wales coach Daley] probably would've known what his gut-feeling was and I think he'll go with that," he said.
We'll just have to wait and see on Tuesday what that may be though.
The influence of James Graham is obvious
It's been five long weeks since the inspirational prop and captain stepped out for the Bulldogs after his month-long suspension.
With him on the paddock, the Bulldogs were well and truly in the game but that all changed when he was concussed after just 27 minutes when his head collided with the hip of Aidan Guerra as he attempted to tackle the Roosters back-rower.
His 72 metres and 18 tackles helped the Bulldogs immensely, and his extra hands in attack were exactly what his team have been missing.
Even Roosters co-captain Friend knew their win was helped off the back of Graham's injury.
"A lot of their play comes off James so it was a big loss for them and I think that contributed to us getting the better of them in the back-end of the first half," Friend said post-game.
Roosters slowly returning to their best
Representative Round couldn't have come at a better time for the Roosters two weeks ago.
Staring down the barrel of their fifth-straight loss against the Wests Tigers last weekend, the Tricolours bounced back with a huge victory over Jason Taylor's men before taking care of the Bulldogs on Friday.
Now with Pearce, Michael Jennings, Daniel Tupou, Boyd Cordner, Michael Jennings and Aidan Guerra all but guaranteed Origin berths, with Maloney and Dylan Napa waiting in the wings for selection, the Roosters will have to continue their recent run without many of their best.
"We are in the position we are in obviously, like our four consecutive losses put us behind the eight ball on the ladder but we learnt some things in that time. We have come back after that and had two wins, we've clawed our way back into the competition on the ladder at least," Robinson said post-game.
"We're going to miss some guys and hopefully we do, and hopefully they get their chance and we have learnt some stuff we have to keep working on. I feel like our game is better, our defence has stayed solid and we have added some things in attack and after 10 rounds we're going okay."
Bulldogs' crumble continues
To put this into perspective, they were so poor against the Roosters that the Titans and Knights both leap-frogged them on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder without playing a game.
Is it a testament of the closeness of the competition? Sure. But the fact is, since their Good Friday clash against the Rabbitohs – where Graham, David Klemmer and Sam Kasiano were all suspended and Brett Morris and Tim Lafai were injured – they haven't been the same.
While the suspended trio have since returned, the holes left by Morris and Lafai linger which is proven by the Dogs losing four of their past five games.
They'll need to lift quick-smart as well with State of Origin around the corner, especially with Hodkinson, Reynolds, Klemmer, Josh Morris and Josh Jackson all in contention for selection.
Warriors continue licking their lips over RTS signing
He was the heir-apparent to Roosters legend Anthony Minichiello's fullback throne until the Warriors stepped in with an offer he couldn't refuse.
With the Tricolours' custodian succession plan not quite going to script, the Warriors continue looking towards 2016 when the 21-year-old will arrive back home.
In the immediate future though, Tuivasa-Sheck remains a prized piece in the Roosters' premiership puzzle after running for 281 metres, making 10 tackle busts and scoring a crucial try just before halftime against the Bulldogs.
It led to Robinson pointing out his fullback "dragged" the Roosters into the game, which he'll surely miss saying by season's end.
This article first appeared on NRL.com