The Sydney Roosters had enough second half ball to put the Bulldogs to the sword last Saturday at Accor Stadium, yet the home side held on for a much needed and emotional victory.
Tri-colour fans would have reefed much hair from their heads as the contest unfolded, with opportunity after opportunity wasted and the gritty Bulldogs defence hanging on despite most believing that the Chooks would eventually find a way through or around the team that sat at the bottom of the NRL ladder heading into the round.
Instead, the blue and whites claimed an unlikely win and the continued poor attacking form of the Roosters was on show for all to see.
Luke Keary and Sam Walker are simply not displaying the form required to vault their side into premiership contention.
Whilst it may be easy to grant play-makes a leave pass when their forwards fail to lead the way and the task of creating scoring opportunities off the back foot becomes increasingly difficult, the six and seven in red, white and blue have no such excuse for the clunky attack they oversaw last Saturday.
In the clash that may well have re-ignited the Bulldog’s season, the Roosters enjoyed more total time in possession, ran for 342 metres more than their opponents and dominated post-contact metres by 66. The Roosters broke more tackles, averaged in excess of five metres more than the Dogs per set of six and tallied a total of 283 metres to Canterbury’s 72 when it came to kick returns.
The Roosters play the ball speed was more than half a second quicker that the Bulldogs and their tackling efficiency near five per cent better than the Gus Gould inspired, Trent Barret, coached outfit.
So how on earth could a team with such positive numbers and a halves combination of Luke Keary and Sam Walker, fail to deliver enough knock out blows to condemn the Dogs to their seventh straight loss? The answer may well lie in the statistics both have accumulated to this point across the 2022 season.
Luke Keary has engaged the defensive line on 46 occasions during the current campaign and Walker is close behind with 40. Both have played eight matches and the only Rooster eclipsing them in that department is Victor Radley with 49.
Yet the fruits of those efforts is where the real concerns for the Roosters lie. Walker has broken the line a paltry four times, produced just three line-break assists and been instrumental in tries on just three occasions when it comes to try assists.
Keary has fared equally as poorly, with just 2 line-break assists and six try assists across the opening eight games of the season.
Alongside an average of 56 running metres per game, Keary’s numbers place him well off the pace when it comes to half-back NRL Fantasy ratings; averaging a mediocre 37.1 whilst the form halves in the competition achieve well in excess of 50 points per game.
Walker’s fantasy points tell a similar story, with his average of 37 points per game far from anything to write home about.
Whilst his average running metres of 88 per game might show intent, the 146 total points complied across eight matches at an average of just 18.25 explains quite clearly why the Roosters are well off the pace being set by the Storm and Panthers.
Bluntly, when the Chooks send the ball wide and look to attack, the combinations simply do not appear to be ingrained or working.
The Bulldogs held on grimly last Saturday and others may have folded, yet the critical spotlight should be directed towards the halves combination in a team that had every chance to secure the two points, yet once again, failed to deliver the polish in attack required to do so.
The men in question are being schooled and guided by Cooper Cronk each week at training, yet right now, look far from a convincing NRL halves combination. Joseph Manu and James Tedesco are currently creating their own opportunities and stats, desperately waiting for a boost from the men inside them.
If the Roosters are to have any chance of making a competitive appearance in the 2022 finals, the improved play of the men charged with igniting their attack is required.
The platform being laid is not awful, yet the execution of the ball players is far from adequate for a team so used to NRL success.