Roosters v Knights: Five key points
Roosters display their resilience, Keary's class shines through, Knights tradesmen lack polish and Watson makes encouraging start to his stint at the back.
Roosters' resilience a good sign for September
Friday night was almost a no-win situation for the Roosters against a team they were expected to dispose of comfortably, but with some changes in key positions their defence showed the type of resilience that will be crucial in the weeks to come.
The Knights started with plenty of energy and plenty of possession but the Roosters turned them away on every occasion despite having a new face at fullback in Connor Watson and a debutant in at hooker in Victor Radley.
The only time Newcastle could crack them was from a kick when a pass bounced off the back of Joe Wardle and while there is room for improvement with ball in hand coach Trent Robinson will be pleased that the defence held firm even in the absence of tackling-machine Jake Friend.
Kenny-Dowall's fateful debut
After 224 games and 121 tries it was with a sense of irony that Shaun Kenny-Dowall lined up for his first game as a Knight against the club where he made his name and it took just 30 minutes before he scored the first try for his new club.
Completing the statistical set of having scored a try against every club in the NRL, there was a sense of good fortune in Kenny-Dowall's four-pointer after Brock Lamb's pass bounced off the back of Joe Wardle before a deft left-foot kick from Dane Gagai gave Kenny-Dowall the simple assignment of chasing through and touching down.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for Kenny-Dowall – has it ever been? – with an error from a tough catch and a bizarre interchange of kicks, flick passes and a short side run but as they say in the classics, he'll be much better for the run.
Knights' tradesmen lack finishing touch
The young Knights' tradesmen found within the Newcastle squad do a great job of putting the foundation down and even build a decent framework but when it comes to adding the finishing touches the whole house falls down around them.
For the first eight minutes Newcastle hammered away at the Roosters try-line but made a basic mistake on their fourth crack at them in succession and for all the pressure they created continued to put the wrong plays on and push passes against a rushing Roosters defence.
Some of the more senior players were also guilty of shoddy workmanship with Trent Hodkinson short passes unable to be taken by Nathan Ross and Sione Mata'utia close to the line and the likes of Mickey Paea and Dane Gagai turned over possession cheaply in good position.
No one doubts their effort each week but three years of losing has obviously decimated their confidence when they get close to the line.
Keary's energy sparks Rooster onslaught
The Roosters had plenty of pressure to absorb in the first 25 minutes but when they finally got the ball in hand in good position the spark of five-eighth Luke Keary was too much for the Knights to contain.
In one of their first excursions into Newcastle territory Keary created an opportunity down the left for Latrell Mitchell and Daniel Tupou that led directly to Blake Ferguson's try and then with the Knights stretched in the middle Keary split the gap between Dane Gagai and Danny Levi to race through and score under the posts himself.
With almost every touch on a sweep play to the left Keary got on the outside of his opposite and made the Newcastle defence look decidedly shaky, the perfect accompaniment to the calculating hand of Mitchell Pearce.
Watson's fullback experiment worth persisting with
There's always a nagging doubt whenever a diminutive player gets shifted to fullback but in his first start in the No.1 jersey Connor Watson showed enough positives to suggest he is worth persisting with.
With Michael Gordon out indefinitely coach Trent Robinson could have looked to a bigger body such as Latrell Mitchell or Blake Ferguson but instead found a place for the fleet-footed Watson and his influence in attack will only improve in the weeks to come.
It was an inauspicious start when he fumbled a Sione Mata'utia grubber in the early minutes and he was run into touch with the suspicion of a second effort late in the first half but he looked more composed as the game wore on and his elusive running caused headaches for the Newcastle defence.
He went within inches of scoring late in the first half after a brilliant solo run and finally crossed the stripe seven minutes from full-time when he raced over from close range to score under the posts.
His eight tackle busts, two line breaks and 146 run metres show just how effective he can be for the Roosters in Gordon's absence.