Dan Walsh, Staff Writer, NRL.com
On a day when uncertainty over the Knights ownership was put to bed, the Roosters did likewise to the Novocastrians slim finals hopes, with a second half blitzkrieg of three tries in 11 minutes securing a scrappy 29-12 win at Allianz Stadium.
Going into the match the Roosters were running hot with six wins from their last seven starts, while the Knights were in danger of forgetting the words to their victory song having lost six on the trot, but from the outset it was as if they had swapped red, white and blue outfits, with the Knights starting with much more purpose as the Roosters looked thoroughly disinterested across the opening 40 minutes.
With their first bye of the year just around the bend, the Chooks looked to have clocked off a couple of days early when they went into the sheds down 12-6, but a rapid fire treble of tries to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Jake Friend midway through the second half proved enough for the premiers to overcome a plucky Knights outfit.
The loss means the Knights can all but start booking early bird flights for September given they would now probably need to win 11 of their remaining 12 matches to play finals football, though it looked like they might pull off one of the upsets of the season as they opened the scoring and went on to dominate the first half.
Keeping it oh so simple, Jeremy Smith kicked off proceedings for the Knights when he went over untouched in the seventh minute, exposing a bad defensive miss from the Roosters with a simple crash ball from one off the ruck.
Having completed just four of eight sets in the opening 15 minutes, the Roosters finally showed what they could do when they held onto the ball, and found reward when halfback Mitch Pearce found Tuivasa-Sheck sweeping around the play and promptly slicing through the Knights' edge defence to tie the game up at 6-apeice in the 18th minute.
Newcastle's forwards threw the gauntlet, the kitchen sink and whatever else they could get their hands on at the Tri-Colours much vaunted forward pack throughout the first half, led by Robbie Rochow with a bone rattling hit on prize Rooster Sonny Bill Williams, while Chris Houston (48 tackles) was also strong in aiming up to a pack that had dusted the Bulldogs' and Storm's big men in recent weeks.
With both outfits throwing away golden opportunities at the others' line, it was the Knights who struck next with halftime in the offing, as rookie winger Jake Mamo found himself on the end of the Knights' first clinical set play of the night, and bagged his first try in the top grade as a result to put the visitors up 12-6 heading into the break.
The second half began with the same litany of errors that had plagued the first, and the opening try for the second stanza fittingly came from yet another error. Tuivasa-Sheck was again the benefactor, cleaning up a bomb from James Maloney that was put down by Knights winger-cum centre James McManus, pulling the Roosters level again at 12-12 with half an hour to play.
The premiers were at it again just minutes later, with the boot of Pearce this time providing for centre Kenny-Dowall, who beat McManus in the air with a juggling effort before regathering for the put-down, pushing the Roosters in front for the first time at the 55th minute mark.
Pearce was again to the fore as the premiers pushed the match beyond the Knights reach, offloading in traffic for Friend to burrow over and stretch the lead to 12, while a Maloney field goal from directly in front and prop Isaac Liu's first career try – coming out on the wing with Tuivasa-Sheck off the field – iced a fourth win in a row for the Roosters over Newcastle.
Sydney Roosters 29 (R Tuivasa-Sheck 2, S Kenny-Dowall, I Liu, J Friend tries; J Maloney 4 goals; J Maloney field goal) defeated Newcastle Knights 12 (J Smith, J Mamo tries; T Roberts 2 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Crowd: 9847.