Superstar fullback James Tedesco stood tall as the Roosters fought back from being eight points down to beat Newcastle 28-8 at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Friday night.
Tedesco ran for 224 metres and had four try assists, four line-break assists and seven tackle breaks to lead his team to their 12th win of the season but it came at a cost as outside backs Matt Ikuvalu and Billy Smith both suffered ankle injuries.
Veteran Josh Morris looks set for an immediate recall after Smith limped off in the first half and returned to the sideline wearing a moon boot.
“Josh will be straight back in there, without a doubt,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said post-match.
“He’s all-in. Josh understood this week. He gets to freshen up and go again.
“I’ve always had a lot of faith in Josh. It was hard this week. It’s just as much my fault that I couldn’t get him to play the way I wanted over the last month to six weeks.
“But he stepped back, had a look, and was loud as anybody in being encouraging this week and on the sideline.”
Match: Roosters v Knights
Round 19 -
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
A veteran of 321 NRL games, Morris’s steady hand may be just what is needed for the Tricolours as they look to build momentum in the run to the finals.
Ikuvalu, meanwhile, lasted just 34 minutes before his left leg was twisted awkwardly in a Dom Young tackle and he left the field in severe pain.
Earlier in the season the Roosters dominated the Knights 38-4, but it was a deceptively different scenario this time around and could have been even more concerning had Young not had a horror evening which resulted in him being pulled from the field.
Indeed, the opening stanza was a series of frustrations for the Roosters, a try disallowed to Daniel Tupou from a Tedesco forward pass, then Ikuvalu spilling the ball with the line begging.
Touch of Tedesco puts Tupouniua over
Finally, the Roosters cracked the code when Sitili Tupouniua scored the first of his two tries after Young was stripped one-on-one by Joey Manu. Young then slipped off a tackle to open a passage to the try line.
Earlier, Young was picked up and unceremoniously dumped on his back in his first touch of the ball, then let a pass escape his clutches for a knock-on.
It was also down his edge that Manu scored a converted try which edged the Roosters in front 10-8, Tedesco taking over goal-kicking duties and nailing it in a tough breeze.
Despite Young's woes, the Knights presented plenty of problems at the beginning for the Chooks, with Kalyn Ponga running the show as the Knights jumped to an 8-0 lead by the 18th minute.
While not wearing the No.7, Ponga was constantly around the ball and he caught the Roosters defence over-reading the play in the 14th minute, turning prop Jacob Saifiti inside for a relatively easy try.
Jacob Saifiti on the inside as a gaping hole appears
At the same time as the conversion was being taken, Smith hobbled from the field and was replaced by Nat Butcher.
Newcastle extended the advantage shortly after when the Roosters were caught offside close to their line and Jake Clifford slotted the penalty.
“We had a lapse there early on. It was a really disappointing to start the game for us,” said Robinson.
“We defended better and better as the game went. 10-8 was a good scoreline for half-time, especially with the changes we had to make as the game went on.
“Then we went 17 sets (of completions) in a row after half-time, which is new for us. We’re working hard at our game and to play the footy we want to play… play it with some patience
“That was a really good second half for us.”
Tupouniua had pulled one back for the Roosters in the 31st minute and they hit the lead five minutes later when Manu scored and then Tedesco took centre stage after the break.
The gun No.1 laid on a try for Daniel Tupou with a superb cut-out pass in the 57th minute and then produced some dazzling footwork to split the Knights open in the lead-up to Lachlan Lam’s try in the 65th.
Tupouniua in again from another Tedesco pass
Angus Crichton grabbed the game's final try with the last pass again coming courtesy of Tedesco.
The Roosters' victory consolidates their fifth place on the ladder while the Knights look to be sliding out of finals contention on the back of two demoralising defeats on the bounce.
Both teams have star players waiting in the wings, with Mitchell Pearce, David Klemmer and Bradman Best due back for Newcastle in coming weeks, and Siosiua Taukeiaho a late withdrawal for the Roosters.