Brad Fittlers Sydney Roosters have bounced back to form after their horror loss last week, rolling Penrith 32-12 at the SFS to climb back to the top of NRL ladder.
Captain Craig Fitzgibbon and forwards Willie Mason, Anthony Tupou and Nate Myles all started and produced inspiring performances as the Roosters ran out 6-tries-to-2 victors over a Panthers side hammered by injury.
The Panthers were withouth Tony Puletua (rib cartilage), Michael Jennings (ankle) and Josh Bateman (pectoral muscle) all lost to injury before the half-time break, although Puletua was able to get back into the match for the second half with the assistance of painkilling injections.
The Panthers went behind 16-12 at the break but two quick tries after the break to Braith Anasta and Brent Grose extended the lead to double figures and put Penrith under immense pressure.
The Panthers’ Black Friday just got worse soon after as hooker Luke Priddis limped off in the 68th minute with a suspected anterior cruciate ligament knee injury which could end the veteran’s season.
The Roosters rubbed salt in the wounds with a sixth try just three minutes from full-time to winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall after a chip ahead by Anasta.
Fitzgibbon and Tupou each played the full game, while Mason and Myles produced over an hour of football to help the Roosters bounce back after last week’s humiliating 42-0 loss to Manly.
Tupou threw a superb look away pass which led to Anthony Minichiello’s first half try while Mason clutched a deflected Luke Lewis kick inside his own territory and ran 40m before offloading for Grose’s try in the 56th minute.
While it was a gutsy effort from the Origin players, the game was hardly a spectacle of brilliant football.
Penrith opened with an easy try to Brad Tighe in the corner after just three minutes, before James Aubusson responded with his own soft try from dummy half in the 10th minute.
Rooster Mark O’Meley produced a typical front-rowers’ try by pushing aside four defenders from a penalty tap 10m out to score himself before full-back Minichiello sailed across untouched from a set backline move.
The Panthers could have been further behind at the break but Luke Rooney was able to dive over in the corner from a Luke Lewis kick after the siren.
Roosters coach Brad Fittler said he â€œdid not expect anything less” than the performance he got from his Origin quartet.
But the coach added he was most impressed with his side’s clinical second half which featured a 90 per cent completion rate.
â€œI did not ask for any special and did not care if I didn’t get anything special,” Fittler said.
â€œAt half time I asked the boys to hold the ball and run hard … that second half I was just rapt.”
Panthers coach Matthew Elliott couldn’t fault the courage of his team either, but was upset at their decision-making which he says needs to be rectified or they’ll continue to slip outside the top eight.
â€œI salute the players for their courage, it was fantastic,” Elliott said.
â€œBut I don’t want a team admired for courage as it slips down the competition ladder.
â€œWe had some dumb decision making in attack … it’s got to come back to being personally accountable.”
Elliott said the club’s injury toll is expected to be heavy with Bateman out for the season, Priddis to miss a minimum of six weeks, Jennings at least a month and Puletua in serious doubt for next week.
At 31 and off-contract, the knee injury could be a cruel end to Priddis’s distinguished career if scans tomorrow are worse than the club’s initial diagnosis of a grade two strain.
â€œI don’t think it’s a career-threatening injury at this stage that is for sure,” Elliott said.