Roosters star Mitchell Pearce says the showdown with Manly can’t be dubbed an NRL grand final replay because the Sea Eagles can’t win back the 2013 title.
Eyeing off a bigger prize, the Sydney Roosters will use Friday night’s NRL grand final sequel against Manly as the platform for a successful title defence.
Defence being the operative word.
Insisting the blockbuster encounter can’t be dubbed a grand final rematch because the Sea Eagles can’t take their title away, Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce says the premiers are more focused on starting all over again.
After a record-setting defensive campaign in 2013, the Roosters are leaking on average a converted try more a game in three matches so far this season.
The envy of the league, the premiership-winning Roosters conceded just 13 points a game last season and completed a record six shut-outs, including a 4-0 win over Manly in the qualifying final.
Pearce said Brisbane racking up 26 points against the Roosters last Friday night, after Souths piled on 28 against them in round one, was unacceptable.
“There’s been a stat the last 10 years that we took into account last year where, unless you finish in the top one, two or three in defence, you don’t win the comp,” Pearce said.
“So it’s proven. You’ve got to be a great defensive team to win a comp. Points don’t get you over the line in the end.
“For us, that’s where we pride ourselves.
“Last year we were the best attacking team in the comp also, but I think we’ve got a naturally pretty good attacking structure.
“So if we defend well, we back that attack will come at the back end of the game for us.
“That’s why we were disappointed last week.”
Despite his spicy claim that Friday’s showdown was anything but a grand final replay, Pearce admitted the Roosters were pumped to take on one of the competition benchmarks at Allianz Stadium.
“It’s a good test against a team I rate as good as anyone in the comp,” he said.
“Last year, including the trial, we played them five times in the one season and every game was brutal, so I’m sure it will be the same again.
“They’re such tough blokes there who just know how to win and who always get up for the game.
“They’re just tough old heads.”