Scintillating James Tedesco and teenage super-sub Sam Walker took it upon themselves to get the Roosters back into the top four and set up a mouth-watering showdown with arch enemies the Rabbitohs next week.
Tedesco ran riot in Toowoomba behind a pack that was brilliantly led by Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to set up three tries in the first half, and get his error riddled side home 40-22 over a Dragons outfit that now must kiss goodbye to the finals.
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Walker came off the bench in the second half to set up Daniel Tupou and score the match sealing try after the Dragons had launched a stunning comeback.
Walker (R) is at short odds to win Rookie Of The Year at this year’s Dally M Awards. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
The Roosters threatened to run away with the game with Tedesco setting up tries for Egan Butcher, Dale Copley and Sitili Tupouniua and running for 191m before half-time but the Dragons, who scrambled well early, showed plenty of fight.
Josh McGuire scored on the cusp of half-time and then either side of the break Zac Lomax set up Mikaele Ravalawa and Matthew Feagai to give the Dragons a stunning 16-14 lead.
Compounding the Roosters’ woes, they lost Adam Keighran to concussion in the 11th minute and Nat Butcher in the 43rd to a leg injury.
Trent Robinson kept teenager Walker warm on the bench after starting with Lachlan Lam and his impact was immediate, setting up a try and then weaving his way through to score in front of the extended Walker family who hail from Toowoomba. When Tupou completed his hat-trick it was the Roosters who had sealed the comeback that counted.
Dale Copley has scored two tries from two appearances since joining the Roosters mid-season. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Tedesco kept the Roosters in it with pure genius during the first half, when his side made nine errors. He now has 22 try assists for the year, bettering his previous career best of the 2018 season. He ran for 250m and made 10 tackle busts in a performance that makes the debate over the best player in the game very much alive, despite Tom Trbojevic’s feats of brilliance.
In the fight
Robinson was forced to make more positional changes and the Roosters finished the game with a one-man bench. It was just another hurdle to clear
Robinson said recently that so long as his team was “in the fight”, another premiership was achievable.
They are in the fight all right despite a season from hell with injury. The Roosters are back on their own in fourth on 32 points but with the Sea Eagles just two points adrift and with a better for and against, any slip up will be fatal.
Their fate may well come down to whether Tedesco or Latrell Mitchell have the most influence on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium.
The Dragons scored two tries in quick succession early in the second half but couldn’t keep pace with the Roosters for the full 80 minutes. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Hargreaves, who had been soldiering on with a broken finger and injuries to his back and knee, returned from a week’s layoff to give the Roosters punch.
The veteran prop wears his leader of the pack mantle like a badge of honour and it was in the middle that the Roosters, courtesy of Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiua Taukeiaho, were hungrier than their Dragons counterparts.
By half-time Hargreaves had run for 112m, more than the three Dragons starting middles Kaide Ellis, Jack de Belin and Tariq Sims combined.
Stuck on 18
The Dragons’ finals hopes are gone after they failed to move off 18 points following the BBQ-gate saga where too many of them behaved like 18-year-olds. There were glimpses against the Roosters of what might have been: Lomax’s creativity, Ravalawa’s brute strength and some resilient defensive resolve at times. Too often they switched off, a problem that haunts Anthony Griffin.
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