Roosters 24 Knights 6
Sam Perrett celebrates after scoring a 'hot potato" try. Photo: Darren Pateman
Win the game in the first half and score the points in the second. It's a saying as old as rugby league itself, but one that was as relevant as ever at Allianz Stadium yesterday.
The Sydney Roosters spent most of the opening 40 minutes camped down Newcastle's end of the field yet only went to the dressing rooms leading 8-6 after a Braith Anasta penalty goal as the siren sounded.
Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce improved his chances for Origin selection with a fine display. Photo: Steve Christo
Often players from the other team will tell you that they get a lift when the opposition resorts to such a tactic, but the Knights were too tired.
By half-time the Newcastle players had made 166 tackles - a whopping 47 per cent more than the 113 first-half tackles made by Anasta's team.
It wasn't that the Knights ball control was poor or that they had been undisciplined and given away a series of penalties as Wayne Bennett's side completed 69 per cent of their sets of six during that period compared to the Roosters' 76 per cent.
Clash of the fullbacks ... Anthony Minichiello gets tackled by Darius Boyd. Photo: Steve Christo
Roosters coach Brian Smith wants his big but inexperienced side to grind opposition teams down this season and after eight rounds in which they won matches they shouldn't have and lost ones they should have, the boys from Bondi finally got close to executing the game plan to perfection.
Knights lock Adam Cuthbertson was forced to make 11 tackles in as many minutes at the start of the game, prop Kade Snowden was also targeted in defence and stand-in hooker Neville Costigan left the field exhausted after 27 minutes.
As a result, none of them were able to have the impact Bennett would have hoped and the Roosters upped the tempo in the second half to blow the Knights off the park.
That bad ... Chris Houston of the Knights looks dejected after a Roosters try. Photo: Getty Images
Led by Mose Masoe, who is listed in the NRL media guide as being 194 centimetres tall and weighing 120 kilograms, the Roosters bench forwards flexed their muscle in attack and defence, while halfback Mitchell Pearce limited the opportunities of Darius Boyd and Akuila Uate by repeatedly kicking the ball dead.
''That was so that Aku couldn't carry it back and neither could Darius obviously,'' Smith said of three successive second-half kicks by Pearce. ''One of them was 70 metres, and it went dead. The crowd went 'ooh' when the ball went dead but they should have been giving him a standing ovation. We didn't want them to stop in-goal.''
The Roosters started to throw the ball around in the second half, while Pearce, hooker Jake Friend and fullback Anthony Minichiello continually tested the Newcastle defence.
Pearce put second-rower Mitchell Aubusson over for the Roosters second try in the 58th minute and winger Sam Perrett crossed five minutes later off a long Minichiello pass after a movement in which the ball went through 11 sets of hands and was handled three times by centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
Pearce then completed the scoring in the 71st minute after Friend raced out of dummy half and caught out a tiring Snowden in defence.
Snowden was replaced soon after and Smith said the tactic not only helped teams to score points against tiring defences but also minimised the likelihood of a late rally from the opposition.
''At the back end of the game, we are all seeing it time after time, where teams flick a switch, they have to play a bit different when the clock is going to run out and teams can run up points in no time,'' he said.
''Taking the gas out of them and working them over so hopefully they can't come back with that at the end of the game is at least as important as scoring the points themselves.
''Of course you are trying to score … but you need to just keep working hard, and I thought that was a bit of a breakthrough for the Roosters today in our mentality. Our big boys won the game for us.''
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 24 (T Arona M Aubusson M Pearce S Perrett tries B Anasta 4 goals) bt NEWCASTLE 6 (J Mullen try W Naiqama goal) at Allianz Stadium. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Gavin Morris. Crowd: 12,728.