Roosters outlast Rabbitohs to go top
NO team entered 2018 facing more expectation than Trent Robinson's Sydney Roosters.
There were plenty of questions being asked about whether they had a forward pack that was up to the challenge.
And the exit of Mitchell Pearce and the arrival of Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco had just about everyone outside the club declaring nothing short of a premiership, or at least a grand final appearance, would be judged a success.
Well, here we are in round 22 and Roosters fans right now have every right to be crowing.
While no one knows what's going to eventuate come September, last night's gritty and gutsy 18-14 victory over arch rivals South Sydney propelled the Roosters into top spot on the NRL ladder for the first time this season.
Built on the back of some typically brutal, clinical and desperate defence, the Roosters showed again why they are the deserving premiership contenders as they flustered the competition's best but admittedly under-strength attack out of the match.
It finished two tries each but the Roosters thoroughly earned the valuable competition points that puts them level with the Rabbitohs on 32, although the Roosters having the better points differential.
That could change if Melbourne beat Cronulla on Sunday.
The Storm would draw level but have a marginally better for and against.
Asked if his side was where he wanted them to be, Robinson said: "Yeah and we are getting better.
"We are where we want to be.
"I probably would have liked to have been there earlier in the season but we are where we want to be now and we are getting better.
"There is room for improvement.
"We are not done yet."
The Roosters did a great job stopping the South Sydney juggernaut, with Damien Cook having a particularly quiet night by his standards.
Souths really fought all the way to the finish but in the end just couldn't nail the play to take the game.
Souths will be nervous waiting on the fitness of Alex Johnston after the fullback left the field in the opening minutes with a hamstring injury.
Seibold said there was no chance Johnston would play on Thursday night against the Broncos in Brisbane, and while Greg Inglis is due back the club would not take any chances.
But given the Rabbitohs growing injury toll in the outside backs, Seibold was adamant the performance was brave and deserved plenty of credit.
After losing Johnston, Dane Gagai was forced to fullback, a position he never trains in, which left Tyrell Fuimaono marking up on Latrell Mitchell.
"That is why I am so proud," Seibold said.
"Gags hasn't done any reps whole season at fullback. Young Tyrell Fuimaono, we pulled him up two days ago and he hasn't trained with us for months.
"For him to do a good job like he did on Latrell Mitchell … you guys look at the result. I look at our effort and intent.
"I know we will fix up our execution going forward."
Seibold was also took exception to a question last week's win over Melbourne had left the Rabbitohs a little flat.
"No way in the world did it have any impact on the game," he fired.
"Our efforts areas were extremely high.
"I was very proud of the performance the guys put in from an effort point of view and their intent.
"I mean, the Roosters have won what, 10 from their last 11 games?
"And we really tested them and I think they struggled to handled us when we went through the middle of the park.
"The game was there in the balance right until the end."
Robinson added: "It is a long way left in the competition.
"Not in the rounds but in the competition.
"We were pretty open a couple of months in what we needed to do to change and that is hard.
"But we had to change and we did.
"We have progressed since then. I feel like we know what we are doing now.
"But as you saw tonight you can't be completely happy with that performance because there were opportunities that we missed."
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 18 (J Manu J Tedesco tries L Mitchell 5 goals) bt SOUTH SYDNEY 14 (H Hunt A Reynolds tries A Reynolds 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Jon Stone. Crowd: 26,331