On the hunt for a third-straight NRL premiership, Sydney Roosters were among the big winners from controversial rule changes brought in to maximise the speed of the game.
Along with unbeaten Canberra and Parramatta, the Roosters looked most comfortable in a quicker game in round three, able to defend with energy and use their opponents’ fatigue to their advantage in attack.
It was all due to the Roosters’ mentality – new rules are much easier to manage if you are fit enough.
Their mobile forward pack rolled through South Sydney and defended brilliantly at the other end in a 28-12 win on Friday night.
Second-rower Angus Crichton believes a faster ruck suits the Roosters, because although it is painful to maintain it makes players more accountable for their fitness levels.
“You have to be fitter if you want to play 80 minutes or be a good player,” he said on Sunday.
“You can’t just have those quick bursts of energy if you’re going to be tired the next set.
“You’ve got to be fitter, stronger and faster. It’s tougher for us as players but as a fan watching the games I think it’s good viewing.
“We’re blessed in the fact that our middles are hardworking and they like to play big minutes and that suits our mobile forward pack.”
Although coach Trent Robinson was originally wary of making rule changes while the competition was paused, speed around the ruck and a resolute defensive attitude allowed the Roosters to resume as normal.
It bodes well for their second-straight title defence as they look to become the first team since Parramatta in 1981-83 to win three consecutive premierships.
The Eels were the first winners of the restarted competition and showed how to utilise momentum from six-again ruck calls to tire out the defence.
Their 34-6 win over Brisbane on Thursday night was the litmus test for NRL games to come in how the rule changes would impact the flow of the game.
The Eels passed with flying colours, showing crafty play around the ruck – a ploy used equally successfully by Canberra in their 22-6 win over Melbourne.
Speed from dummy half, creativity from new half George Williams and determined defence gave the Raiders their third-straight win over the Storm on Saturday night.
Manly also look set to benefit, with Tom Trbojevic having a hand in five tries in his first game under the new edict.
The Sea Eagles fullback scored two and set up another three in Manly’s 32-6 win over Canterbury, with his input as much about good positioning as it was the ruck speed.
Elsewhere, St George Illawarra could not get into the game against the near-perfect Warriors on the Central Coast, clocking up their third loss for the season.
Coach Paul McGregor is now under serious pressure to keep his job considering the Dragons have won just two of their last 13 games – both against the 2019 wooden-spooners, Gold Coast.
Newcastle and Penrith played out a thrilling 14-14 draw at Campbelltown Stadium to remain undefeated, while North Queensland and Wests Tigers were the other winners in round three.
Cronulla, St George Illawarra, Canterbury and the Gold Coast all remain winless.