Dan Walsh, NRL.com
At times recapturing the attacking brilliance that swept them to last year's premiership, and at others performing with all the slick orchestration of a kindergarten Christmas concert, the Roosters have put the Dragons to the sword 34-14 in the latest edition of their traditional Anzac Day clash at Allianz Stadium.
Brilliant first-half tries to Daniel Tupou and Anthony Minichiello gave the Roosters fans amongst another healthy Anzac Day crowd of 38,784 plenty to cheer, but 10 errors – the majority of which coming in prime attacking real estate – kept the Dragons in the match up until the hour mark and no doubt gave Trent Robinson a few tense moments in the coach's box.
The day proved a similarly mixed one for NSW coach Laurie Daley, with encouraging performances from incumbent halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney offset by the concerning sight of both Maloney and livewire centre Michael Jennings limping up the tunnel with suspected shoulder and ankle injuries late in proceedings.
Off the back of a series of penalties and costly errors the Roosters gave the Dragons' line an early examination with first Maloney being held up over the line and then scrumbase partner Pearce coming within inches of scoring off a cheeky grubber of his own in the sixth minute.
Aidan Guerra was not to be denied on the next attacking raid, with the Roosters lock stepping his way past opposite number Trent Merrin and some worryingly light defence through the middle to register the first points of the afternoon, with Maloney making easy work of the conversion to give the premiers an early 6-0 lead.
The premiers then turned on a play befitting the occasion, with an enterprising side-to-side movement that began with a series of flick passes between right-side duo Sonny Bill Williams and Shaun Kenny-Dowall wound its way across to the far side, where Daniel Tupou tiptoed along the sideline tulips before throwing a no-look offload to Jennings and then backing up on the outside for good measure, finishing one of the more remarkable tries of the year and sending the Roosters out to a 12-0 lead after 17 minutes.
The Dragons had been denied on each of the few attacking chances they had from close range, so their left edge runners chanced their arm from halfway in the 26th minute, with first Ben Creagh and then Gerard Beale slicing through and looking for all money as if they'd engineered their first points of the afternoon, only for Beale to be brought down a metre short by a fine try-saving tackle from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
The Roosters relief was short-lived however as Creagh muscled his way over from dummy half on the resulting play, but with Gareth Widdop unable to add the extras from out wide the Roosters still enjoyed an eight-point lead at the half-hour mark.
Responding within minutes, Maloney showed a glimpse of the ball playing that earned him a NSW jumper last season, with as good a face ball as you'll see catching Kangaroos winger Brett Morris out of position, shaving the hairs from the chin of Kenny-Dowall and Minichiello over for one the easier tries the veteran will score in his career.
But with the halftime siren about to sound the Roosters veteran produced a play that belied his Italian heritage, with an air-swing worthy of the bloopers reel missing a rolling ball by a foot and gifting Nathan Green his first try of the season to bring the Dragons back into the game on the stroke half-time.
Jake Friend gave the Chooks the best possible start upon the resumption of play, racing through in pursuit of his own grubber kick to beat a slow-footed defence to the bobbling ball and pushing the Roosters' lead out to 24-8 in the 43rd minute, and the margin should have been extended 10 minutes later as Maloney again threw a scorching cut-out pass to put Tupou on the outside only for the winger to drop the ball cold with the line open.
A well-timed crash ball for Dragons centre Beale saw the Kiwi over for his fifth try of the year and kept the home side within touching distance with 16 minutes to go, but yet another fine ball put Boyd Cordner over untouched to put the match beyond doubt at the 70th minute mark, with a late four pointer to Kenny-Dowall icing the result.
Sydney Roosters 34 (A Guerra, D Tupou, A Minichiello, J Friend, B Cordner, Kenny-Dowall tries; J Maloney 5 goals) defeated St. George-Illawarra Dragons 14 (B Creagh, N Green, G Beale tries; G Widdop 1 goal) at Allianz Stadium. Crowd: 38, 784