Hastings return sets up Holden Cup win
The Roosters have made it two wins in the space of five days with a 38-28 comeback win over the Sharks at Allianz Stadium on Monday night.
The Tricolours received a huge boost with NRL duo Jackson Hastings and Joseph Manu late inclusions. The former had scored a try, set up another two and landed a perfect seven from seven with the boot.
Playing their third game in 10 days following a rescheduled mid-week clash last Wednesday, the Roosters were slow out of the blocks, giving up an 18-point start before piling on 38 unanswered points of their own.
On the back of a confidence-boosting 34-all draw with the table-topping Penrith Panthers last week, Cronulla kept the momentum rolling with an early try to Joshua Tuilagi off a set play from the scrum.
It was soon 12-0 when No.9 Jayden Brailey – perhaps stung after being overlooked for the NSW Under-20s State of Origin side – sliced through near halfway and exchanged passes with winger Sione Katoa before crossing next to the sticks.
The Sharks crossed for their third inside the opening 15 minutes when fill-in lock Eddie Faalua barged over off a short ball from Brailey despite a hint of an obstruction.
Desperately in need of a try, the Roosters turned to their returning star for inspiration, with Hastings racing through to ground a Grant Garvey grubber.
Some sustained pressure and a couple of repeat sets led to the Tricolours' second as Ryan King crashed onto a flat ball from Garvey to cut the margin to six.
The Roosters remarkably went to the break ahead after Hastings linked up with halfback Jesse Marschke to tie things up before he knocked over a penalty goal after the half-time siren to make it 20-18.
It took nearly 15 minutes for the first points in the second half with Roosters bench forward Brendan Frei collecting a ball from Hastings and hitting-and-spinning his way over from close range to open up an eight-point lead.
There was nothing pretty about the next try as Jarred Andersen broke through some feeble defence off a penalty tap from 20 metres out to extend the Roosters' lead before Frei charged through for his second to make it 38-18.
The Sharks managed to hit back late through Ash Nisbet and Sione Katoa as Brailey brought up his 21st try assist of the season but it wasn't enough to help them maintain pressure on the Holden Cup top four.
Roosters 38 (Brendan Frei 2, Jackson Hastings, Ryan King, Jesse Marschke, Jarred Anderson tries; Jackson Hastings 7 goals) defeated Sharks 28 (Joshua Tuilagi, Jayden Brailey, Eddie Faalua, Ash Nisbet, Sione Katoa tries; Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga 4 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: 20-18 Roosters.