Roosters survive scare from determined Dogs

They were never headed, but this was a game of comebacks for the Roosters.

Victor Radley inflicted damage upon his return. Billy Smith scored in his first touch of the football. And Drew Hutchison celebrated his return to the starting side by signing a two-year contract extension.

Victor Radley is tackled in midair at Bankstown Stadium.Credit:Getty

Whether the tri-colours truly have their mojo back, however, will be determined when they have passed a sterner test than the one provided by Canterbury. They made hard work of this.

For all the returning Roosters, this performance highlighted just how much they miss those who remain unavailable. The absence of Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, Luke Keary and Lindsay Collins had, on a wet and empty Bankwest Stadium, brought them almost down to the level of the Bulldogs. The result wasn’t sealed until the siren sounded.

The sight of Sam Walker running backwards 90 metres when the clock expired said everything you need to know about this contest.

When the Roosters crossed twice in the opening eight minutes, this was shaping as another one of those unseemly blowouts. To the Bulldogs’ credit, they turned up with a far superior attitude than the one they brought to last week’s 66-0 capitulation to Manly.

Joseph Manu crosses a very wet try line.Credit:Getty

Both of them began with Lewis kicking the football and finished with him regathering it over the try line. The first try was scored on the second tackle, a reward for Lewis’ speed and courage.

Canterbury’s changes weren’t the only ones to the official program. Referee Adam Gee and his touch judges, who officiated Thursday’s Souths-Cowboys match, were forced to back up after the scheduled match officials were classified as casual contacts by NSW Health.

Just as he was recovering from the punctured lung and three cracked ribs he sustained against Parramatta, Hutchison had to make a call on his future. On the table were two two-year contracts, one from the Roosters and another from arch-rivals South Sydney. The latter was the result of his relationship with incoming Rabbitohs Jason Demetriou, who coached him when the pair were at Illawarra.

Ultimately, Hutchison felt he couldn’t leave. His reward was a start alongside Walker, who showed both flashes of brilliance and how much he still has to learn to fulfil his undoubted potential.

In the end it required the most unlikely of heroes to seal it. Matt Ikuvalu, the former shoe salesman, came up with two huge plays in the space of a minute. The first was an incredible bomb defusal, followed soon after by a wicked right-foot step for the match winner.

The Roosters will require more from their most unheralded players to offset the absence of the injured ones.

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