It was ‘The Fullback Show’ at the SCG on Saturday afternoon as James Tedesco’s Roosters kept their top-four spot with a dominant 48-10 win over Kalyn Ponga’s Knights.
A whopping seven second-half tries by the Roosters shut the Knights down. But they cling to eighth spot on the ladder and give hope for the five clubs below them within two competition points.
The NRL hasn’t sighted Kalyn Ponga (calf) since the round 14 loss to Storm a month ago. That muscle injury denied fans a Ponga and Tedesco face-off in the Origin decider at ANZ Stadium 10 days ago.
But the Moore Park crowd got their money’s worth as the pair traded steps, sprints and attacking zip.
Maybe even more impressive from Trent Robinson’s point of view is that the Roosters' eight-tries-to-two win came after losing hooker Jake Friend in the seventh minute to a right arm injury. It was only the second game back for the rugged No.9 from 10 weeks out with a torn bicep. But early indications are Friend hasn’t re-injured that muscle.
Twice the Knights got within two points of the Roosters – who would have been smarting after five losses in their past seven games – but the premiers kept skipping away.
Match: Roosters v Knights
Round 18 -
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
And a lot of their shine went to the staggering 290 metres by Tedesco. Latrell Mitchell’s accurate boot (8-8) and a try for 20 points personally was also very welcome.
In a badly beaten side Ponga wasn’t that far behind in entertainment value, even if he didn’t match his opposite No.1 in metres. He was central in the Knights winning the last contest against the premiers 38-12 back in round 11, where he scored 18 points.
And he made his presence felt early on Saturday in round 18. He made 115 metres by half-time, but just 139 metres by full-time, although did have his fingerprints on both Knights tries.
But it was Tedesco who got things rolling for the home team. In an 80-metre movement, the ball went through eight sets of Roosters hands before the Blues No.1 slid over untouched in the eighth minute.
The Knights bombed two chances to level scores when Jesse Ramien dropped the ball cold with the line open, and then Connor Watson lost his grip on the ball right on the Roosters line.
Tedesco finishes off brilliant team try
But Tautua Moga, in just his second game back from an ACL injury, showed some muscle burrowing through three Roosters defenders to plant the ball in the south-east corner.
The half-time led to the Roosters 6-4 was never going to be enough.
And Latrell Mitchell emphasised the point by scooping up the ball and running 90 metres, two minutes after the break, as Jesse Ramien tried to toe a kick through the line. Mitchell converted his own try and it was 12-4, with the Knights looking despondent.
But not for long. This time it was Watson having a gallop up the famous SCG turf before Tedesco wrapped him up in a cover tackle. The next play saw Ponga inject himself again and Herman Ese’ese scored his first try for 2019 right beside the northern end uprights.
Radley scores as Roosters blow it open
The margin was back to just two points (12-10) and the crowd waited to see which team would emerge. The Knights had more tackle-busts and line breaks up their sleeves by the 50-minute mark, but the Roosters had more internationals on the field.
Suddenly something just seemed to snap inside the Roosters and Tedesco. The Wally Lewis Medal winner made yet another dash upfield in the 55th minute led to a try for his skipper Boyd Cordner two plays later.
Then the floodgates opened and in marched Sio Taukeiaho, Victor Radley, Mitch Aubusson, Nat Butcher and Daniel Tupou for tries.
What next for Nathan Brown’s Knights? They are home for the Wests Tigers next Friday – one of the clubs chasing Newcastle hard.