The Sydney Roosters have reignited their season with a 48-10 flogging of Newcastle but maintain there is more improvement to come.
After spluttering through much of the representative period and winning just two of their previous seven games, Trent Robinson’s side hit full flight on a sunny winter afternoon at the SCG on Saturday.
The premiers turned on the razzle dazzle in the second-half in a warning shot to the rest of the competition with Luke Keary and James Tedesco leading the way.
The Roosters battled on without hooker Jake Friend who fractured his forearm in the eighth minute – an injury set to sideline him for four-to-eight weeks.
After looking like they were in danger of falling away from the competition’s pacesetters, the Roosters put on an emphatic second-half display but coach Trent Robinson said it was just the beginning.
“I thought it was a good start today,” Robinson said.
We’ve been building some good principles over the last month. But there was a little bit more character in us today.
“That was the beauty of it. Principally they were good as well. But games get uncomfortable and if you stick at it for a while and then if see a few cracks appear, you can take an opportunity.”
The Roosters led 6-4 at the break but the Knights could have been up after Jesse Ramien bombed a golden chance and Connor Watson was stopped short by a Mitchell Aubusson try-saver.
Even down 12-10 following Herman Ese’ese’s 48th minute try, the Knights were very much in the hunt.
But the home side turned the screws with a second-half onslaught, running in seven tries including six straight in the final 24 minutes.
Keary’s fingerprints were over most of his side’s big moments during a crucial period in second-half, coming up with three try assists as the Roosters inflicted the Knights’ fourth loss in five weeks.
NSW State of Origin hero Tedesco finished with 262 metres, one try, 10 tackle busts and two linebreaks in a hands-down victory over rival No.1 Kalyn Ponga.
The Knights’ day was summed up when Latrell Mitchell scooped up an ill-advised Ramien grubber and ran 90 metres to score.
Mitchell finished with a 20-point haul after also booting eight from eight conversion attempts.
And after Nat Butcher ran virtually untouched from a short kick-off to score, Knights coach Nathan Brown could only ponder how his side had fallen apart.
The Knights will end the round in eighth spot but with Brisbane and the Warriors breathing down their necks just one point back.
“There were parts that became embarrassing,” Brown said.
“The kick-off and not playing to the whistle and kicking down the short side (and the opposition scores) when you have people there, they’re the things that happen when the game gets away from you.”
Raiders push for top-four spot
Canberra continued its push for a top four spot after downing Wests Tigers 20-12 in front of more than 100 Raiders’ old boys celebrating the 30th anniversary of the club’s 1989 premiership.
Raiders coach and then player Ricky Stuart spoke about the memories of that year leading into the game and while it wasn’t a win that sent a premiership statement, they did enough.
If Canberra win three of its remaining seven NRL games it will almost certainly play in the finals for just the second time in seven years.
The Tigers are 13th but still only one win outside the top eight. However, they’ll need to start hitting some form soon as they’re fighting six teams for eighth spot.
A Tigers’ mistake on halfway gifted Canberra the first opportunity on Saturday and five tackles later Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson put Dunamis Lui under the posts on three minutes.
The Raiders had burst out the blocks in front of their old boys and a second try arrived inside 10 minutes when Aidan Sezer grubbered into an empty in-goal for Charnze Nicoll Klokstad to pounce.
Wests had four straight sets on Canberra’s line and the defence eventually cracked when Josh Aloaia barged over to score on 18 minutes.
But the Raiders hit straight back as Sezer threw a sensational cut-out pass for Jordan Rapana to score in the corner in front of 15,656 fans at Canberra Stadium.
Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker made it a 14-point buffer and four-from-four off the tee with a penalty goal in the 25th minute to lead 20-6.
The Tigers came flying out in the second half and some Benji Marshall magic put David Nofoaluma into score after darting down the short side.
The visitors almost made it a grandstand finish when Brooks broke through and found Paul Momirovski who grubbered for Michael Chee-Kam but Sezer made an unbelievable try-saving tackle.