Roosters ease past Newcastle
The Roosters found their groove late to claim a scrappy 28-4 win over a brave Knights side that belied their lowly ranking to match it with the competition heavyweights for the full 80 minutes.
Newcastle were more than holding their own until a sickening collision saw winger Chanel Mata'utia forced from the field in the 57th minute after he collected a stray forearm to the head when trying to tackle Roosters counterpart Blake Ferguson in a play that left him momentarily motionless.
As his brothers watched on, Chanel was able to sit up and was carted off on the medi-cab to a standing ovation from the crowd but the Knights never recovered with the home side piling on 18-unanswered points to temporarily join the Storm on top of the Telstra Premiership ladder.
It might have been a mismatch on paper but it was the Knights who had all the running in the opening five minutes with the visitors procuring three line-dropouts before a Brock Lamb error let the Tricolours off the hook.
Those are the moments that have cruelled the Knights all season so it came as no surprise to see the Roosters make them pay when Latrell Mitchell put in a phenomenal cross-field kick for Ferguson who soared through the air to open the scoring.
The powerful winger looked to have grabbed his second try of the evening moments later but his effort was ruled out after the officials deemed Luke Keary's pass had travelled forward.
Newcastle continued to hang around and went close to levelling the scores but an error and then a penalty allowed the Roosters to march downfield before Keary atoned for his earlier mistake with a trademark dummy to stroll through and score under the posts.
Instead of dropping their heads, the visitors persevered and were rewarded for their impressive first half when ex-Rooster Shaun Kenny-Dowall planted a Dane Gagai grubber to celebrate his first game in Knights colours with a try.
If you thought that was an unscriptable play then the next five minutes would have left you in disbelief as Trent Hodkinson inexplicably put in a chip kick from the first play after the try that was easily reeled in by the Roosters, Gagai and Kenny-Dowall came up with errors, Daniel Tupou made a huge break off a scrum and Connor Watson fell millimetres short of scoring against the side he's been linked with.
The second half started much the same with Newcastle setting the early pace only to undo their good work with defensive lapses that allowed Mitchell and Ferguson to gain easy yards coming out of trouble.
The injury to Mata'utia appeared to knock the stuffing out of the Knights who fell further behind when a messy battle for the ball ended up with Ryan Matterson toeing the Steeden through for Tupou to make it 16-4 after 62 minutes.
Newcastle's never-say-die attitude continued to keep them in the contest and Nathan Brown's men went agonisingly close to bridging the gap when Luke Yates had the ball wedged free by a terrific Mitchell Pearce tackle as he attempted to slide into the in-goal.
The star halfback showed he is equally adept in attack as he played short to a flying Isaac Liu who crashed over for the match-sealing try to celebrate his 100th game in the NRL.
With the result beyond doubt, Trent Robinson's men were able to release the shackles a little bit and moved further in front when Ferguson reeled in a kick and spectacularly offloaded back inside to Watson who capped a magnificent game in the No.1 jersey with a try.
Roosters 28 (Blake Ferguson, Luke Keary, Daniel Tupou, Isaac Liu, Connor Watson tries; Latrell Mitchell 2, Sio Siua Taukeiaho 2 goals) def. Knights 4 (Shaun Kenny-Dowall try) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: 12-4. Crowd: 7,121
NRL.com unofficial votes: 3 points: Connor Watson. 2 points: Mitchell Pearce. 1 point: Ryan Matterson