Slick Roosters step up in absence of big names
Isaac Liu of the Roosters charges downfield. Photo: Getty Images
THERE was no Sonny Bill Williams. No Luke O'Donnell. And no Mitchell Pearce. But the much-hyped Roosters side for this season made an impressive start to its preparations for round one, blitzing Manly at Gosford on Saturday night.
The Roosters scored four tries to one in a promising performance that will leave coach Trent Robinson with more selection headaches than he had before the match.
Despite the first half looking every bit a trial, with dropped ball, rusty positioning and stunted communication, the Roosters - fielding James Maloney at halfback instead of Pearce, and Daniel Mortimer at five-eighth - clearly fared better, crossing for two early tries to hold a 10-0 half-time lead. Manly, who rested Matt Ballin and Brett Stewart, lifted their intensity in the second half, but the trusty combination of halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran seemed little match for the Roosters, who crossed for a further two tries, before conceding one late in the match.
Each of the Roosters' first-half four-pointers came down the left wing, with Daniel Tupou crossing after just four minutes following some quick hands, including from new recruit Michael Jennings.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who it is thought is in a battle with Tupou for a wing position, played in the centres and fared well against Sea Eagles star Steve Matai.
The Roosters doubled their lead on 15 minutes when Jennings showed fancy footwork from dummy half and burrowed over. And, this time, Maloney potted the sideline conversion attempt.
Around this time there was added concern for Manly, when Anthony Watmough returned to the bench after a knock to the ribs. He didn't play any more minutes but word was his absence was precautionary.
In the final 10 minutes of the half, the Sea Eagles finally lifted their intensity. However, poor ball security let the Roosters off the hook. The Sea Eagles also gave away six first-half penalties to two.
The presence of Brent Kite, Richie Fa'aoso and ex-Titan Brent Lawrence got Manly going in the second half. Another former Titan, Kayne Lawton, looked sharp at dummy half. But again, mistakes stopped them putting on points.
The Roosters made them pay, when a cross-field kick into the in-goal by Mortimer was batted back by two Roosters players following through and pounced upon by Isaac Liu.
With about 10 minutes remaining, Samisoni Langi pushed his way over for the Roosters' fourth, converted by Maloney to make it 20-0, before Manly pulled one back through Jacob Gagan.
Williams is expected to play for the Roosters next week.