At one point, the eighth Immortal ran out of superlatives.
But it needn’t matter, as boom teenager Sam Walker did all the talking for him in the Sydney Roosters’ 34-10 rout of St George Illawarra to claim the Anzac Day Cup.
If he hadn’t done so already in his first three NRL games, Walker produced a coming-of-age performance in front of 37,620 at the SCG to once-and-for-all prove that the hype on him is real.
The 18-year-old halfback scored a try, played a hand in two others, and kicked six goals in the type of display that will be remembered as one of the best in the long history of the annual fixture.
However his man-of-the-match effort is likely to be overshadowed by an ugly first-half shoulder charge from Dragons winger Jordan Pereira that knocked James Tedesco for the night.
The swinging arm prompted the second use of the league’s new 18th man rule in as many days.
But a rampant Roosters team, who also had hooker Ben Marschke binned in the second half, hardly missed their star fullback, putting the Dragons to the sword with the next five tries.
And it was the off-contract Walker who inflicted the most damage, setting up two tries and crossing for a third in a game-deciding eight-minute period bridging halftime.
The victory consolidates the Roosters’ top-eight spot on 10 points, while the Dragons remain towards the bottom of the eight on eight points.
HOOK REACTS SWIFTLY
Anthony Griffin showed he isn’t afraid to react swiftly to close losses, making the surprise decision to bench halfback Adam Clune in favour of the bigger Jack Bird.
Mid-season signing Billy Burns was also thrust straight into the starting side for his club debut, with Josh Kerr also getting relegated to the pine.
The Bird call looked a masterstroke early when the former NSW State of Origin representative latched onto a Corey Norman grubber for opening points in the 11th minute. The try was later overturned, however.
The Roosters made a statement with their ANZAC Day win.Source:Getty Images
DRAGONS SEE RED
From there it was all Roosters for the half, where both Dragons wingers finished on report for separate shoulder charges that were both followed by Roosters tries.
Mikaele Ravalawa was cited for a 13th-minute no-arms hit on Josh Morris, who immediately recovered to put Daniel Tupou over for their first four-pointer.
The contest turned into an arm-wrestle until Tedesco was floored by Pereira in the 34th minute, with Sitili Tupouniua crossing a minute later.
The incident immediately drew criticism in league circles, led by Immortal Mal Meninga.
“The question is could he have pulled out of that tackle, and I think he could have,” Meninga said on Fox League.
“He’s gone through with the tackle, the ball’s gone past Tedesco with a touch of the hands to the winger. It’s late, and I think it should have been a send off.”
Three Dragons ended the game sweating on Monday’s charge sheet, with second-rower Tyrell Fuimaono also put on report for a high shot on Tedesco in just the second minute.
WALKER’S EIGHT-MINUTE SHOW
“To sit and watch him play at his age on this stage …” Johns said on Channel Nine commentary.
“He just backs himself. He just plays.”
And that was after Walker set up the first try with a long cutout for Brett Morris that ended in Tupouniua going over.
He followed it up with two left-foot steps that put Nat Butcher over for a 10-point halftime lead, before doing it all himself with a show-and-go two minutes into the resumption.
“Junior coaching now and how much structure is in the game, the long pass is coached out of young halfbacks,” Johns went on to say later in the game.
“You talk to the outside backs at the Roosters, they love playing with Sam, the way he gets them early ball with a long pass.”
The Dragons defence fell apart thereafter, with Lindsay Collins and Joey Manu crossing for soft tries in the middle of the field that will be of major concern to Griffin.
The Dragons 33 missed tackles almost doubled the Roosters’ 18, with Ravalawa claiming a consolation try late.
Source: Read Full Article