Luke Keary has made a successful return from a six-week layoff and Latrell Mitchell was the big beneficiary as the Sydney Roosters survived a scare before beating Wests Tigers 24-16 at Bankwest Stadium on Friday night.
Keary was involved from the get-go, collecting the kick-off before taking the first hit-up of the match and proving his worth in a solid outing as the Roosters showed glimpses of their best in a hard-fought and much-needed win.
The most pleasing aspect of the night was Keary's combination with Mitchell as the pair linked for two tries in the second half to help overcome a gritty Wests Tigers outfit in front of 13,918 at the newly-built venue.
A three-minute burst of magic from Benji Marshall enabled the Wests Tigers to snatch a four-point lead with two quick tries after they trailed 12-8 at halftime but their execution with the game in the balance fell apart through an error-riddled period in an otherwise well-drilled game.
The Roosters surrendered the lead immediately after the break but held their nerve, hitting back through Mitchell who burst through the line before linking with Keary and Victor Radley for an entertaining long-range effort.
Keary and Mitchell were involved again to hand the Roosters their fourth of the evening when a simple change of angle from the former NSW centre allowed him to stretch out and plant the ball down.
Match: Wests Tigers v Roosters
Round 16 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
The defending premiers repelled any attack that came their way late in the contest but lost Joseph Manu, who played fullback, to a head knock midway through the second half.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves made an immediate impact in his return from a four-week layoff through injury and suspension to lay on a late offload for Nat Butcher to dive over the line for the Roosters' first of the night.
Wests Tigers back-rower Ryan Matterson made it two tries in two appearances against his old club with a strong effort up the other end of the field when he bumped off Zane Tetevano pinball-style and crashed over next to the posts to level the scores.
Tetevano had a three-minute period to forget after missing the initial tackle on his former teammate before being placed on report for dangerous contact on Luke Brooks.
The joint venture edged ahead via a penalty goal in the 12th minute but failed to get to their kick three minutes later to allow the visitors an opportunity to strike back.
Daniel Tupou was next to cross after he collected a Harbour Bridge-style pass from Keary.
Both sides were guilty of bombing near-certain tries before halftime with Corey Thompson failing to draw in Manu after busting through and messing up a chance for Robert Jennings.
Jennings was struck accidentally by a stray knee as he was brought to ground in a try-saving effort with the winger leaving the field and failing to return.
A long-range bust from Thompson – his second of the evening – allowed the joint venture to find space on the left edge to send Paul Momirovski over untouched in the corner, before Marsters burst through on the opposite edge then got enough hand on the ball from a Marshall kick in-goal three plays later for an eight-point turnaround in the second half.
But Thompson went from hero to villain when he failed to regather a 40/20 attempt from Keary to swing momentum in the Roosters' favour, and that was all the defending premiers needed to close out the match.