In the NRL match that had the biggest hype in recent memory the Sydney Roosters have weathered an early storm to race away with a big win over the Bulldogs. The match probably fizzing in terms of the physical confrontation, but it was ex-Dog Willie Mason who won the war – scoring the first try of the game and crossing for a double later in the contest. The Sydney Roosters eventual winners of the Round 4 clash, 40-12.
All eyes were on Willie Mason as he strolled out onto the big ANZ Stadium, even the big man was showing some nerves – looking a little edgy as he got onto the field. In addition to the heavy boo’s and antagonizing slogans on supporter banners, a large majority of the Bulldogs crowd turned their backs to the field as Mason ran out – showing huge disrespect for the former Belmore boy.
The early contest was gripping. The Bulldogs getting a lions share of possession and throwing everything at the Sydney Roosters. Wave after wave of Dogs attack was coming, quick one out plays from dummy half was cutting the Roosters up and while the Bulldogs had good ball and field position – they just couldn’t get over the try line.
The Roosters defence during the early salvo’s was nothing short of astounding. Somehow they scrambled, dived and knocked the ball loose at critical times to save tries. The Bulldogs attack looked crisp and even from deep set, impressive ball movements from the Dogs – the Roosters just hung in.
This brick wall defence set the platform for the big Roosters win. After surviving the onslaught the Roosters took their chances immediately, the crowd silenced as big Willie Mason strolled throw shoddy on line defence – hitting a short ball at speed to dive over fro first points. Mason was pumped, the big man running hard at the line and almost running over the dead ball line as he launched over the try line.
The Roosters might have had rock solid defence and the might of Willie Mason – but they backed it up with impressive replacements in David Shillington and Lopini Paea. The Chooks losing nothing as they injected the bench players, Paea having his usual high involvement and heavy impact.
The Bulldogs were tiring quickly. Sonny Bill Williams was consistently a stand-out, easily their best player – but even SBW wasn’t having the desired effects with his shoulder charges and heavy hits. SBW failing to stop Ogre on several occasions and rarely able to get a big hit on enemy Willie Mason.
With the Bulldogs on their heels, the Roosters wheeled out their 2008 bag of tricks. Set plays run through halves Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce looked very impressive. You had Minichiello running onto inside balls from Pearce like a locomotive, there was Anthony Tupou running riot – both offloading at will and breaking tackles and you had the relentless repetitive charges of Mark O’Meley.
The next wave of points for the Roosters came through the air. Pearce and Anasta putting kicks and chips over to dazzle Hazem El Masri and Bulldogs players all over the field.
With a late penalty in the first half, the Roosters went into the sheds at 20-0. They never looked like getting beaten from there, while the Bulldogs might have had the uptempo, surging game early on – it was frustration that killed them off.
The Roosters turning them away so often, so early simply broke their spirits.
Then came more of the same.
The second half saw surge after surge from the Roosters. Forwards and backs alike getting big metres, 10m chunks at a time and charging their way down field. Seemingly desperate, the Bulldogs gave away some silly strip penalties to keep the pressure on themselves.
Under the pump to chase points, the Dogs never regained composure in the second period. Willie Mason returning with a heavily strapped leg, the big guy getting a cork late in the first half. But there was no way he was missing this party, returning to put in some great charges in the second half.
For the Bulldogs, apart from Sonny Bill Williams – it was Luke Patten that deserved another mention. The General busy all night and trying his hardest to spark some broken play raids, fending and stepping his way through plenty of traffic.
Just like their team, the Bulldogs fans folded early as well. Thousands leaving the ground early as their team was getting slaughtered by their former favourite sons. Nate Myles, Braith Anasta, Mark O’Meley and Willie Mason had returned to rip the heart from the Dogs – further boosting the confidence in 2008 of the maturing Roosters and relegating the Bulldogs to more inconsistent results. Braith Anasta securing the man of the match honours with a first class all round performance for his side.
Willie Mason might have been winning the battle before tonight, the big man getting himself a new deal at a new club after Dogs turmoil, his enemy Malcom Noad being forced from the Dogs too – but after 80 minutes of action Mason had won the war as well. He can talk the talk, but once again he was able to walk the walk.