"That looked like us tonight".
With those words, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson declared his team's premiership defence was back on track after a 34-14 defeat of St George Illawarra in the annual Anzac Day clash at Allianz Stadium.
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The Sydney Roosters claimed a comprehensive 34-14 ANZAC Day victory over St George-Illawarra.
While he conceded that the Roosters pre-season target was to win more than four of their opening eight matches, the manner of their victory against the Dragons ensured Robinson and his players head into the representative weekend break with the confidence of a team who believe they can become the first side in more than 20 years to win back-to-back grand finals.
"I think that was our best performance this year," Robinson said. "To execute the way we did, it has been some hard work over a month or so to get to that point so it was nice for us to play our footy again. It happened tonight, guys turned up in the right spots, had the confidence to throw those passes and we got some really nice points out of it."
Not even injuries to NSW Origin five-eighth James Maloney (AC joint) and centre Michael Jennings (ankle) could dampen the mood in the Roosters camp.
If the pair are fit and retain their Blues jerseys for the opening Origin match on May 28, it will largely be because of their performances before being forced from the field in the final eight minutes. Both turned in strong performances, laying on spectacular tries for teammates Daniel Tupou and Anthony Minichiello.
Even Robinson wasn't sure if Tupou would be awarded what was arguably the best try of the season in the 17th minute as the Roosters spread the ball from side to side and almost the length of the field before the winger eventually crossed after earlier displaying some freakish athleticism to keep the ball in play.
"Just by the reaction of the Dragons I thought it was out, but if you actually watch where Jenko gets tackled, it was an average pass but Toops does his best to keep it in – he ends up going over the foam to the other side – and Jenko gets up, takes that ball and takes off, and Toops supports him from there," Robinson said.
"That was beautiful footy, where they actually had to work to get to that, and then when you watch it, it wasn't even close, there was no doubt he was in."
The lead-up to that passage of play was also spectacular to watch as Sonny Bill Williams offloaded twice – the first to centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall and the second to Mitchell Pearce – before the NSW halfback spread the ball wide to Jennings, who threw a long pass over Tupou’s head that forced the left winger to flick the ball back infield as he stepped over the sideline.
"Speaking amongst the boys after the game just briefly we feel that our combinations are getting much better," Minichiello said. "We weren't at our best the last few weeks but we worked really hard at training and it is starting to get to where we want to be."
While the lead-up was not as spectacular, Minichiello’s try 20 minutes later in the opposite corner highlighted the class of Maloney, who threw a perfectly placed cut-out ball for the Roosters captain to score and give his side an 18-4 lead after an earlier try from lock Aidan Guerra in the ninth minute.
Despite Nathan Green scoring for the Dragons on the last play of the first half, Roosters hooker and man-of-the-match Jake Friend almost single-handedly put paid to thoughts of a comeback by St George Illawarra fans among the 38,784 crowd when he showed great vision to race out of dummy half, grubber in-goal and score in the 43rd minute.
Dragons coach Steve Price was disappointed with his side's lack of discipline in the first half, which prevented them from getting good field position or an even share of possession that eventually took its toll in defence.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 34 (B Cordner, J Friend, A Guerra, S Kenny-Dowall, A Minichiello, D Tupou tries; J Maloney 5 goals) bt ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 14 (G Beale, B Creagh, N Green tries; G Widdop goal) at Allianz Stadium. Referees: Shayne Hayne, Gavin Morris. Crowd: 38,784.