The Sydney Roosters have held off a gallant Canterbury Bulldogs by 22-16 at a wet Bankwest Stadium tonight.
In stark contrast to their big losses last week, both sides proved more committed in defence.
But, it didn’t start that way. In just the fourth minute, Matt Ikuvalu made a long break on what seemed like a standard hit up.
By the end of the set, the Roosters had opened the scoring.
After smart lead up work from Victor Radley and Sam Walker, Drew Hutchinson found himself in space.
He got the ball on to Billy Smith who scored in his first appearance for the Roosters since 2019.
The Roosters were in again just three minutes later. A Walker kick ricocheted off Lachlan Lewis and fell in the path of Sitili Tupouniua.
He dived on it to put the Roosters ahead 10-0 after just nine minutes.
Bulldogs fans were having flashbacks to the last round and were fearing the worst. However, with a few Roosters errors creeping in, the Bulldogs managed to steady.
After a strong set, a Sione Katoa grubber earned Canterbury another set.
From the ensuing dropout, Lachlan Lewis, a late replacement for Kyle Flanagan, chipped early in the count and was there to score an opportune try.
With almost twenty minutes gone, the Bulldogs were back within four.
Perhaps understandable given the conditions, the next ten minutes were scrappy. Both sides were guilty of handling errors and the match looked headed for a grind.
With ten minutes left in the half though, the Roosters kicked ahead again.
Radley and Walker were again involved before Joseph Manu cut back inside, beat two defenders and scored behind the posts.
You could sense this time that the Bulldogs wouldn’t go away and they scored with seven minutes left in the half. A Lewis grubber was taken in goal by Manu.
In his desperation to get back infield, the ball came loose and Lewis was there to claim his second.
Despite the fast start by the Roosters, they only lead 16-10 at the break.
The Bulldogs started the second half with plenty of purpose, winning the middle for the first time in the match.
They got their chance six minutes in when Ikuvalu couldn’t hang on to a contested bomb. With the Bulldogs halves favouring a short side play, the ball went to the right open side.
Nick Meaney sprinted through a yawning gap and the scores were level.
Only a few minutes later, Ikuvalu was taken out whilst taking another bomb. The resulting penalty and then a set restart gave the Roosters the field position they needed.
Walker threw a long, floating pass to Ikuvalu and he redeemed himself with a try to put the Roosters ahead.
They led by four with just under half an hour remaining.
With Jared Waerea-Hargreaves back on the field, the Roosters were again controlling the territory game.
They couldn’t conjure the play to put the game to bed but they were starving the Bulldogs of opportunities to score.
With just four minutes remaining, the Roosters kicked a penalty goal to go a converted try ahead and it proved to be enough.
It wasn’t pretty by any means, but Trent Robinson will happily bank the two points and move on to a match up with the struggling Cowboys next week.
Trent Barrett will no doubt be proud of the effort but the Bulldogs just didn’t have the class to prevail when the game was on the line.
NRL News Player of the Game
3 points: Captaincy agrees with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (SYD).
He ran for more than two hundred metres in the middle, made in excess of thirty tackles and was a major reason why the Bulldogs couldn’t get field position late in the game.
2 points: Victor Radley (SYD) showed the Roosters what they have been missing these last few weeks.
He played plenty of first receiver, hit the ball up when required, and made some outstanding hits in defence.
1 point: Josh Jackson (CBY) will never be seen as a flashy player, but he puts in 100% every week.
He topped the match tackle count at 56, repelling raid after raid in the second half with the Roosters threatening to pull away.