It was a successful trip up the M1 for the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night, blowing away the Newcastle Knights in a near-perfect opening 20 minutes to claim a 38-4 victory.
Despite a mid-week backline shuffle which saw Captain James Tedesco omitted from the side, the Roosters notched up their sixth win in 2021 with Joseph Manu deputising at fullback and Matt Ikuvalu playing his third NRL match of the season on the wing.
Backrower Sitili Tupouniua played a starring role, threatening in both attack and defence alongside Sam Walker, who set up five tries and scored one himself in an emphatic victory.
Fellow outside back Daniel Tupou continued his impressive try-scoring rate, climbing to outright third on the Club's try-scoring tally with his 105th try in the sixth minute of the match, while Jared Waerea-Hargreaves claimed a special milestone, becoming the 5th most-capped Rooster of all time, ironically by-passing Newcastle halfback Mitchell Pearce.
Donning the Castore 2021 Away Jersey, the Red, White and Blue were on the back foot early as a high tackle handed the home side cheap possession in their own half, but strong goal-line defence saw them survive the early onslaught.
The Roosters unleashed a quick counter-attack with a break from Tupouniua to gain the ascendency, and with a penalty handing them in prime territory, a left-side raid found Sam Walker who hit Tupou with a beautiful floating pass to score the first try of the match.
With Walker's conversion successful, the Roosters took a 6-nil lead after eight minutes.
Match: Knights v Roosters
Round 8 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
A second trip into Newcastle territory was fruitful for the boys from Bondi just minutes after, as a well-timed offload from Angus Crichton found Walker, who lofted a ball again to Tupou, with the winger selflessly batting it back inside to Josh Morris who touched down to finish off an entertaining piece of play.
Despite the missed conversion, Easts took a 10-nil lead after just twelve minutes played.
Charging downfield once again thanks to the likes of Lindsay Collins and Tupouniua, a misplaced kick handed the Knights a seven-tackle set, but the defensive steel from the Bondi Wall forced an error from Daniel Saifiti as the young second rower combined with Isaac Liu to pull off a brutal hit.
The Roosters continued their blistering form as a clever eyes-up play from Walker saw the halfback execute a perfectly weighted chip kick over the Newcastle defence, with Crichton diving on the Steeden to extend the lead to fourteen.
The points continued for the visitors as Co-Captain Brett Morris and Matt Ikuvalu took advantage of a last-tackle kick which was left for the taking, with Morris throwing a well-timed offload to his winger, who scored the side's fourth try in the first quarter of the match.
Walker's conversion gave the Roosters a 20-nil lead after as many minutes.
The side's first error came on the ensuing set with a forced offload ending a perfect completion rate, but it proved to be no issue for the Red, White and Blue defence as Josh Morris easily picked out a kick in the in-goal, earning a seven-tackle set.
Expansive play with the ball in hand saw the Roosters storm downfield, and although Manu looked to emulate his halfback with a cut-out pass to Ikuvalu, the winger was caught short and bundled into touch just before the line.
As uncharacteristic errors crept in, the Knights crossed in the corner through a looping pass to winger Brayden Musgrove after a number of sets on the line.
Round 8 Match Highlights: Roosters v Knights
With just under ten minutes left in the first half, the Roosters still held a sixteen-point lead as Kalyn Ponga's conversion was waved away.
Both sides continued to stifle their attacking opportunities for the remainder of the first half, with clumsy errors squandering any chance for the Red, White and Blue to extend their lead, going into the sheds with the scores at 20-4.
Strong opening sets from both sides upon resumption set up an arm wrestle to start the second half, with plenty of intent shown from the respective forward packs.
A dubious call against Easts in an aerial contest saw the Knights attacking the Roosters' line, with two defensive efforts from Ikuvalu preventing possible tries from being conceded.
A clumsy forward pass from dummy-half put further pressure on the defence, but the Bondi Wall proved too strong for the home side, with Brett Morris and Ikuvalu wrapping up Bradman Best and bundling the centre into touch.
Back on the attack, a flamboyant passage saw a miracle offload from Tupouniua finding Walker, who put in an audacious kick, and while the play failed to garner points, it was a welcome return to form after a scrappy half hour for the Roosters.
Continuing to employ expansive play with ball-playing and trick-shots, Easts were on the board again as Walker finished off a passage which included a Jared Waerea-Hargreaves flick pass, and a Morris/Ikuvalu one-two punch which saw the experienced duo draw in the defence to put their halfback over.
Walker's conversion saw the Roosters take a 22-point lead with just over a quarter of the match left.
Looking to land the final blow, Easts continued to charge through the middle as a runaway Victor Radley found Walker, who pivoted and chipped a deft kick to Josh Morris, scoring his double much to the delight of the travelling Chookpen.
Desperate to get back on the board, a number of forced drop-outs put the boys from Bondi on notice, but the added defensive pressure was no issue as Manu cleverly scooped up an attacking grubber to put his side out of danger.
With just minutes remaining, Walker combined with Morris once again as the veteran centre completed his hat-trick as the Roosters came away with an emphatic 34-point victory.
Sydney Roosters 38 (Josh Morris 3, Daniel Tupou, Angus Crichton, Brett Morris, Sam Walker tries; Sam Walker 5 goals) def Newcastle Knights 4 (Brayden Musgrove tries)
Stay tuned for more from Roosters.com.au including Match Highlights, Roosters TV Post-Match Interviews and Head Coach Trent Robinson's Press Conference!