Set small text size
Set default text size
Set large text size
The Sydney Roosters have sent out a serious statement of intent after a dominating 32-18 win over the North Queensland Cowboys.
It was Game 200 for James Tedesco, and although the full-back had reached his usual high standards, he was way down the list after a series of superb performances from the Roosters.
Matt Lodge and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves laid down the platform, particularly in the opening 20 minutes, and grabbed tries for themselves, while Victor Radley had two excellent assists and Joseph Suaalii impressed at the both in attack and in defence.
The win continues the Chooks’ charge up the ladder, though in truth the colon is almost secondary to the message sent via the performance. On this form, they will be a huge problem for whoever pulls them into the final.
The Cowboys will return, but that was a stark indication of postseason levels. They were completely outplayed in the middle, with only one of their big men – Luciano Leilua – managing to go past 100m with the ball in hand.
It will worry Todd Payten that his team couldn’t compete with a fiery Roosters team, especially early on. They struggled to come back as the half wore on, but just when it looked like they might go for the break at 10-6, they conceded and let the momentum build.
The Roosters’ first 20 minutes last week against the Broncos were about as good as any opening quarterback of the year, but this week may have been even better.
Radley and Suaalii started early, with Lock unveiling a Sam Walker-style Harbor Bridge pass to get the 19-year-old onto the board.
The winger then circled the bells – Tom Dearden hitting a big shot, then getting rolled in defense – while Radley had fun playing the ball, creating a try for Lodge.
The 10-0 score could have been over after Joey Manu caught a high kick but couldn’t crash cleanly.
It wasn’t a true reflection of the game, and when the excellent Lodge and Waerea-Hargreaves caught their breath, the Cowboys struck.
It was a great attempt to draw visitors to the board: Leilua was the source, skillfully tapping Murray Taulagi. The winger still had a lot to do but headed towards Walker on the try line and passed him to score.
It brought the Chooks back to life. Walker produced a smart bat himself to release Paul Momirovski and his pass was finished by Daniel Tupou.
At the start of the second half, things got better. After a superb defensive set that left Scott Drinkwater kicking from his own red zone, the Roosters forced a scrum and Sam Verrills crossed intact from the base.
The Cowboys needed to get the next one, and did. Griffin Neame crossed the line and unloaded on Reece Robson for a great score from the posts.
Again, when challenged, the roosters responded. Waerea-Hargreaves and Lodge were back and it was telling, with the hosts able to ride the pitch more easily.
After Tedesco and Keary closed in, JWH hit a crash ball through the posts and grabbed a deserved try. Verrills added another on the next set and there might have been another for Suaalii, just for a bunker intervention.
It was time for Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to make a consolation effort, but it would only be that.