Latrell Mitchell demonstrated why he is considered the best centre in the game as the Sydney Roosters set up a top-of-the-table clash against last year's grand final opponents Melbourne with a 30-16 defeat of Cronulla at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday night.
Led by Mitchell, five-eighth Luke Keary and fullback James Tedesco, the Roosters had too much class for the Sharks but they only led 6-0 until the final tackle of the first half when the Test centre ran 60 metres to score a stunning try.
The fourth consecutive victory by last year's premiers catapulted them into second place on the Telstra Premiership ladder behind the unbeaten Storm, who they play on Friday night at AAMI Park.
The Roosters overcame a poor start to the match in which they completed just one of their first four sets of possession, with dummy half Victor Radley throwing a forward pass, second-rower Angus Crichton losing the ball as he attempted an offload and Cooper Cronk knocking on.
The mistakes continued for the premiers, who completed at just 59 per cent in the first half after committing nine errors but remarkably they led 12-0 at the interval after two tries against the run of play.
Match: Sharks v Roosters
Round 5 -
Venue: PointsBet Stadium, Sydney
The first was scored by Cronk in the 25th minute after fullback James Tedesco picked up a loose ball from Boyd Cordner, stepped inside Jack Williams and raced into space before linking with Keary, who passed inside to his halves partner.
Mitchell then broke the hearts of Cronulla supporters in the 13,470 crowd when he outsprinted Sione Katoa and Josh Dugan to score his 60-metre try after the halftime siren.
With Roosters interchange forward Lindsay Collins knocking on 30 seconds from the interval, the Sharks had a scrum feed but Johnson kicked and the Roosters capitalised on the unexpected possession.
Keary and Mitchell conjure magical try
Keary showed great vision to kick across for Mitchell, who fielded the ball on his own 40-metre line as the clock wound down to zero and sprinted away to give his team a 12-0 halftime lead.
The Sharks looked set to hit back in the first set of the second half when Briton Nikora raced into the clear but Bronson Xerri was unable to take his pass and the Roosters made them pay for the missed opportunity with three tries in nine minutes.
Mitchell laid on the next Roosters try with an angled run towards the goal posts before spinning out of an attempted tackle to put Tedesco over in the 43rd minute.
Cordner burst through the tackles of Johnson and Nikora to score in the 45th minute and when centre Joseph Manu put winger Matt Ikavalu over with a clever flick pass five minutes later the Roosters suddenly led 30-0.
Josh Morris finally got the Sharks on the scoreboard when he scored in the 59th minute and the veteran centre dummied past Tedesco to put Johnson over three minutes later but it was too little too late for the home team.
Ikuvalu defies physics