A classy return from Luke Keary and the powerful Latrell Mitchell have propelled the Sydney Roosters to fight back to a 24-16 NRL win over the Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium.
Five-eighth Keary, who was playing his first match in six weeks since his latest bout of concussion, threw the final pass for three of the Roosters’ four tries on Friday.
Centre Mitchell who bagged 26 points earlier in the season against the Tigers, turned the match with two big second-half plays.
The Tigers reversed a 12-8 halftime deficit to a 16-14 lead five minutes into the second half after canny plays from captain and five-eighth Benji Marshall set up tries for former Rooster Paul Momirovski and fellow centre Esan Marsters.
But recent NSW State of Origin discard Mitchell sparked the decisive surge of the game to give the Roosters their ultimate eight-point winning lead.
He brushed off an attempted tackle and passed to Keary, who sent hooker Victor Radley on a 40-metre scamper to the line.
Mitchell converted and did the same three minutes later, after running onto a Keary pass and fending off Elijah Taylor and slipping through Corey Thompson to plant the ball over the stripe.
Keary said he felt a little more nervous than usual before the game, but was fine once it started.
“The first half I was a little bit hesitant with the opportunities, but I got the hands on the ball a fair bit in the second half, which was good,” Keary said.
Asked about Keary’s performance Roosters’ coach Trent Robinson said: ‘I felt he was pretty good for six weeks off to come back and into it. I thought he had a good game
“Top end for Luke, probably not, but it’s a good start.”
Robinson took umbrage at the suggestion Keary was the key to getting the best out of Mitchell.
“I think Latrell creates a lot for himself as well, I don’t think he needs to rely on anyone else.” Robinson said.
“He obviously opened up the game there for us.”
It took the visitors just three minutes to cross the line, with Nat Butcher – whose only previous try this season was against the Tigers – smashing his way over after a fine offload from captain and prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
Five minutes later, another former Rooster Ryan Matterson crashed through attempted tackles by Zane Terevano and Radley to notch his fourth try of the campaign.
Marsters kicked the conversion and a 12th-minute penalty goal, awarded for offside against Brett Morris, to give the Tigers an 8-6 lead.
They held it for only five minutes before Daniel Tupou capitalised on a 30-metre Keary pass and Mitchell kicked the conversion to give the Roosters a four-point lead.
Marshall, who was playing his 299th NRL game, produced a fine cutout pass to put Momirovski over and his grubber set up Marsters, but Mitchell had the final say.
Robinson praised the Tigers almost error-free performance and opposing coach Michael Maguire said he told his players he was proud of their effort, but lamented some missed opportunities.
“‘Just little key moments in the game, they will learn a lot from that one, from a point of view of understanding that pressure game,'” Maguire said.
“It was one I felt we probably shot ourselves in the foot a few times.”
However, Roosters forward Zane Tetevano is facing at least a two-game ban after being charged with dangerous contact by the NRL judiciary.
Tetevano has been slapped with a grade two dangerous contact charge for his shot on Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks in the 11th minute.