The Sydney RoostersÂ kept their impressive 2008 NRL run going,Â this time without 6 Origin stars as they moved to the top of the NRL ladder with a 24-14 win over the Bulldogs at the Sydney Football Stadium tonight.
Down 10-4 at the break, the Roosters scored four tries to one after halftime to consign the Bulldogs to their fourth straight loss, the defeat all but extinguishing their finals hopes.
The Roosters started their resurgence with a try to Brent Grose just before the break, but it was in the second half that they finally found some rhythm.
NSW stars Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce had been given much of the credit for the Roosters leading the NRL in tries scored from kicks, but stand-in playmaker James Aubusson and fullback Amos Roberts proved they were just as good.
Tries four minutes apart to Sam Perrett and Shaun Kenny Dowall came off smart short kicks to give the Roosters their first lead, and it was game over when Roberts reached out to score, despite the fullback shaking his head in apparent disappointment at dropping the ball.
He was reprieved by the video referee, but the same couldn’t be said for Bulldogs debutant Arana Taumata whose long ball landed in the waiting arms of Setaimata Sa for a runaway intercept try.
A tentative start from both sides gave little indication as to the imminent explosion of brilliance with Sonny Bill Williams marking his return from a month-long injury layoff with a sublime out the back flick for Hazem El Masri’s 11th minute opener.
It was a rare piece of skill over the opening half hour, with the Bulldogs’ lack of confidence showing through in their footy up against a Roosters side patched up with lower graders.
As happens when you lose three in a row, you find a way to make an error, and boy did the Bulldogs put on a smorgasbord of errors.
Taumata’s first touch resulted in the ball travelling 30 metres backwards, as a kicked skewed off the side of his boot.
Then Ben Roberts knocked on at the scrum to hand over possession before a mix-up between Nick Youngquest and Heka Nanai as they looked to defuse a bomb was only saved from finishing in a try by a Iosia Soliola knock-on off his shoulder.
The Roosters made plenty of breaks, but couldn’t finish them off, like when Sa powered for the line on the half hour.
Sa lost the ball a metre out, Youngquest picking up the loose ball and taking off downfield.
He linked up with Taumata on the 60 metre line, the 19-year-old making up for his earlier blunder as he outsprinted Roberts to punctuate a memorable debut.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 24 (B Grose S Kenny-Dowall S Perrett A Roberts S Sa tries A Roberts 2 goals)
BULLDOGS 14 (H El Masri A Taumata T Winitana tries H El Masri goal)