Roosters welcome back Jennings in style
Clad in Captain America get-up, second half-heroics from Michael Jennings and Aidan Guerra have secured the Roosters a hard-fought 30-22 win over the Dragons at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
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Jennings' two-try haul in his first outing since recovering from a six-week back injury and Guerra's own second half four-pointer saw the Roosters switch on the afterburners and put away a valiant Dragons outfit despite incredibly having to defend an extra 12 sets and only enjoying 45 per cent of possession.
Holding a slender 12-10 lead after an insipid first 40 minutes – where every ball the Roosters dropped, bulleted over the sideline or passed forward out of dummy-half was matched by a poor fifth tackle option or disjointed attacking raid from the Dragons – the Roosters stepped up a notch in the second half, running in three tries to secure a fifth straight win over the Red V and continue their flirtation with the top four, pushing into the upper rungs of the NRL ladder ahead of the Bulldogs in fourth spot due to a superior four and against.
Jennings and fellow Origin star Brett Morris traded four pointers in the ninth and 14th minute respectively to kick things off – Jennings' the result of a James Maloney bomb and Morris gifted his eighth try of the year by a fumble from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in his in-goal – and a missed conversion attempt from Gareth Widdop was the only difference as the Roosters took a 6-4 lead out of the opening exchanges.
Joel Thompson was next across the line courtesy of a flat ball from Widdop – ensuring he won't be completing a nudie run around WIN Stadium with his first try for the red and whites – to give the visitors a 10-6 advantage, though not without a healthy dose of controversy in the lead up.
Thompson's try came off the back of a long break from Morris, who had taken a quick tap after referee Shayne Hayne pinged the Roosters marker defence, despite the Tricolours believing the penalty had been given for offside – an infringement where a quick-tap cannot be taken.
A slick left-side shift that put young Roosters flyer Nene MacDonald on the outside of his man in the 31st minute pushed the Chooks back in front 12-10, and the premiers extended their lead beyond a converted try when Guerra surged through three defenders, stretched out the go-go gadget arms and caught a piece of the try-line seven minutes after the break.
Jennings' second meat pie of the night, a 61st-minute touchdown of a Maloney grubber, followed by a successful conversion from the five-eighth sounded the death knell for the Dragons, only for the tolling bell to be proved premature by a Mitch Pearce knock-on off the kick-off.
A charge down from Guerra with the Dragons on the attack in the ensuing set saved his halfback further embarrassment and sent the back-rower seventy metres downfield, with only a desperate chase and try-saving tackle from Mitch Rein preventing the Chooks from stretching their lead further.
Benji Marshall's own fleet-footed showing in the 70th minute, which saw him leaving three Roosters clutching at thin air over the course of a 20-metre jink to the tryline, gave the Dragons a sliver of hope with the clock winding down. But when Jake Friend struck back immediately with a scurry from dummy half, the Roosters' 14-point buffer was again restored, and only reduced two minutes out from fulltime by a consolation try to Josh Dugan.
Sydney Roosters 30 (M Jennings 2, N MacDonald, A Guerra, J Friend tries; J Maloney 5 goals) defeated St George-Illawarra 22 (B Morris, J Thompson, B Marshall, J Dugan tries; G Widdop 3 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Crowd: 13,083