Brilliant Roosters end Manly's season
The Roosters have shaken off the losses of three key stars to completely outplay Manly 46-10 at Brookvale Oval on Friday night, formally ending the Sea Eagles' faint finals hopes and putting themselves within reach of an amazing third straight minor premiership.
The win moves the Roosters back to first on differential with one round to play, needing a win over the Rabbitohs and/or a Brisbane loss to the Storm next week to seal top spot.
The result is a great one for the Dragons, who now cannot miss a finals finish, and a poor one for Brisbane – whose odds of a minor premiership lengthened – and the Cowboys, whose own hopes of a top-two finish and home final slipped.
The absence of halfback Mitch Pearce (hamstring) was well covered by a fine all-round game from young halfback Jackson Hastings, who kicked beautifully in a strong performance, and James Maloney's impressive leadership.
Likewise form prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves' absence was well-covered by the Roosters' mobile young forward pack aiming up. Meanwhile Manly seemed to keenly feel the absence of hooker Matt Ballin, with youngster Jayden Hodges mistiming plenty of passes from dummy-half.
The Roosters wasted little time in asserting their dominance at the beginning of the game, shrugging off the losses of their injured stars by controlling proceedings well as Hastings put in an exhibition of controlled kicking far behind his years.
Manly prop Willie Mason on his return from a two-game shoulder charge ban was penalised from the very first play of the game for a shoulder charge, but not placed on report.
Manly fans had their hearts in their mouths when halfback Daly Cherry-Evans stayed down with a left shoulder injury shortly after but stayed on the field to play through the pain.
When Peta Hiku spilled a spiralling James Maloney bomb it gave the Roosters a full set at the line and Sam Moa's offload followed by quick hands from Hastings and Aidan Guerra allowed winger Brendan Elliot to open the scoring in the ninth minute.
Controversy erupted shortly after when a Foran clean break, supported by Cherry-Evans, came unstuck when Maloney knocked down the pass as Foran looked to draw fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to send his halves partner away.
Maloney's first touch went backwards but the crowd erupted in a chorus of boos when they felt the Roosters pivot knocked on in his subsequent attempt to clean up.
Horo was warned for abusing the officials in the wake of the incident, then found himself on report for high contact, with the referees warning Jamie Lyon for the way his side was speaking to the officials.
Compounding an awful few minutes for the home side, Elliot earned his double in the ensuing set from a well-worked right side move.
A monster hit from Boyd Cordner on Horo, followed the next play by a dropped ball from Josh Starling, handed the Roosters yet another chance to attack in the 26th minute and this time it was Guerra who scored, pouncing on a Hastings grubber that Kieran Foran failed to clean up to stretch the lead to 16-0.
With the match threatening to slip away the home side found another gear but a couple of attacking raids down the left side – including some quality ball-playing from Feleti Mateo – came unstuck.
They finally scored down the right when a miracle pass from Brett Stewart – fresh off inking a one-year contract extension through 2017 – allowed Lyon to ground the ball just inside the corner post.
With the crowd reinvigorated they launched one final assault in the shadows of half time but the Roosters were able to preserve their 10-point advantage to the break.
Manly needed to be first to score after the break but got off to the worst possible start when Elliot earned his hat-trick through another well-worked right side shift created by Tuivasa-Sheck in just the 43rd minute at the end of a quality set of hit-ups in which Cordner ran over the top of a clearly struggling Cherry-Evans.
The Tricolours absorbed a couple of sets at their own line from Manly around the 50-minute mark then blew the game wide open with a three-minute double to winger Daniel Tupou, both created by Maloney.
For the umpteenth time in the game Maloney bombed left but this time Tupou not only made a clean mark but burst through the defence and, off-balance, stumbled the last few metres to score.
The very next set Maloney fired a cut-out to the same man who galloped away down the left touch line to score. A pair of laser-like conversions from Maloney stretched the lead out to 34-6.
A Cherry-Evans pass sent back-rower Tom Symonds – returning from injury then shifting out to the centres (as he has so many times this year) when Jamie Lyon went off injured midway through the second half – over for his side's second try 10 out from time.
Things got uglier for the home side after that, despite Roosters coach Trent Robinson rewarding hooker Jake Friend and Hastings each with an early shower.
Tuivasa-Sheck though exploded late in the game, throwing a pinpoint no-look cut-out for Tupou's hat-trick then producing a sensational run to split Manly up the middle and evade a few more tacklers before popping a miracle offload to Isaac Liu, who fought through several more defenders to plant the ball over the line.
The result is the Roosters' biggest ever win at Brookvale and ends Manly's 2015 finals hopes – and the final Brookvale home games of club legend and coach Geoff Toovey and five-eighth Kieran Foran – in disappointing fashion.
Sydney Roosters 46 (Elliot, Tupou 3, Guerra, Liu tries; Maloney 7 goals) defeated Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 10 (Lyon, Symonds tries; Lyon goal) at Brookvale Oval. Half-time: Roosters 16-6. Crowd: 12,911.