The Roosters will be fighting to avoid the ignominy of being the second NRL minor premiers dumped out of the finals with successive losses.
Only once in the NRL era has a minor premier been dumped out of the finals in successive losses – an ignominy the Sydney Roosters are desperate to avoid.
After finishing first after the 26 regular season rounds in 2009, Wayne Bennett’s St George Illawarra dropped out of the playoffs in straight sets in the supercoach’s first season in charge of the joint venture.
That was under the old final eight system, and after suffering a shock first week loss to eighth placed Parramatta 25-12 at Kogarah Oval, the Dragons were forced to travel to Brisbane to face Bennett’s former club the Broncos on their home turf.
They went down 24-10.
The Broncos were knocked out the following week by premiers Melbourne, whose title was later stripped due to salary cap breaches.
Parramatta, inspired by the brilliance of Jarryd Hayne, fell at the final hurdle to the Storm.
The Roosters put in a forgettable effort in their 19-18 qualifying final loss to Penrith on Saturday and are now in the sights of in-form North Queensland, who disposed of Brisbane 32-20 in Townsville’s elimination final on Saturday.
A finals force since the NRL came together in 1998 at the end of the Super League war, of most concern to the Roosters was their horrible completion rate against the Panthers of just 57 per cent (21/37).
In comparison the Cowboys managed a completion rate of 73 per cent (24-33).
But of more than one occasion this year fifth-placed North Queensland have made an art of hanging onto the football and nailed 100 per cent first half completion rates.
In their round 24, 22-10 win over South Sydney, they completed 19/19 sets in the first half to corner the Rabbitohs and race to a 16-0 lead at the break.
Roosters back-rower Boyd Cordner says the World Club Challenge champions have to muster better than they did against the Panthers if they are to match what the Cowboys can offer.
“It is something we pride ourselves on, completing and defending our line and you can’t win games if you don’t do those things in finals,” he said.
“Our start wasn’t good at all, we didn’t set up the game at all, we had our opportunities and didn’t take them, but we are back again Friday night.”