A brave performance from the Sydney Roosters was not enough to claim victory against the Parramatta Eels, going down 31-18 at Bankwest Stadium on Friday night in their Round 9 clash.
Despite going down in a close match, two milestones were celebrated as centre Joseph Manu notched up his 100th match in Red, White and Blue, while youngster Tuku Hau Tapuha made his NRL debut, becoming Sydney Rooster #1201.
Winger Matt Ikuvalu scored his second career hat-trick, while second rower Nat Butcher incredibly amassed a game-high 70 tackles.
Donning their 2021 Castore Away Jersey, the Roosters were busy from the outset, taking the kick-off and marching themselves into opposition territory on the very first set of the match.
A quick shift of the ball saw a contested fifth-tackle kick knocked on, but the visitors would regain possession as a desperate tackle from Butcher dislodged the ball from a runaway Reed Mahoney.
Another set of quick hands saw Daniel Tupou make inroads from the ensuing scrum and after a penalty for a high shot on Angus Crichton, the Roosters were in prime position to score. Returning captain James Tedesco stamped his authority on the right, throwing a cut-out pass that found Ikuvalu who scored in the corner with an incredible acrobatic effort.
Despite Sam Walker's sideline conversion being waved away, the Roosters took a 4-nil lead after five minutes.
Match: Eels v Roosters
Round 9 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
An unfortunate penalty in Parramatta's half swung momentum to the home side, but once again Tedesco was at the fore, saving a potential try by running the ball dead.
With pressure mounting, the boys from Bondi held a resilient defensive line, and although it looked as if the Eels had replied with a try of their own, Butcher and Tedesco were once again in the thick of things, holding up hulking front rower Reagan Campbell-Gillard over the line in a herculean effort.
Butcher's defensive prowess was a highlight once again, forcing an error from Eels captain Clint Gutherson, but an uncharacteristic penalty for lifting above the horizontal handed the home side territory, and Parramatta hit back with a try in the corner after some audacious fifth-tackle offloading.
After a quarter of the match played, the Eels took a slender 6-4 lead after converting their goal.
Looking to amend their mistake, the Bondi Wall displayed some impressive defensive fortitude, with a number of big hits on the ensuing set keeping the Eels in their own half.
Their patience was rewarded as a wayward pass was picked up by Butcher, who dashed past the defence before finding a runaway Ikuvalu, scoring his second of the night with a 50-metre effort.
With 22 minutes of the match gone, the Roosters now led 10-4 after Walker's conversion.
Unfortunately, a string of uncharacteristic errors in their own half saw the Tricolours needing to muscle up in defence once again, and the sheer weight of possession proved too much as a fortunate bounce of the ball found Parramatta over the line.
A successful Captain's Challenge handed the Eels possession just ten metres out, and they would score their second try in quick succession to lead 18-10 with time winding down in the first half.
Round 9 Match Highlights: Roosters v Eels
The poor handling from the Roosters continued, however, a desperation tackle from Tupou prevented his opposite Blake Ferguson from extending the lead with a brave last-ditch effort.
Not to be outdone, the boys from Bondi looked to hit back on the stroke of half-time, and although a try to Drew Hutchison was denied after a bunker intervention found a knock-on, the Roosters earned a penalty as the five-eighth was illegally hit on his way to the ground.
Opting for the penalty goal as the half-time buzzer sounded, Adam Keighran's silky conversion closed the deficit to six as the sides went into the sheds after an entertaining and physical first stanza.
After a back and forth start to the second half, the Roosters were on the back foot as a careless high tackle got the home side out of their own half, and following an error from a fifth-tackle kick, their opponents would extend the score with another try.
With 46 minutes gone, and with their conversion successful, the Eels took a 24-12 lead.
Needing to act quickly, Easts' desperation on the line continued to hold off wave after wave of attack, and after numerous sets without the ball, another intervention from the bunker found Walker impeded by a defender, ending a tenacious defensive period for the Bondi Wall.
With the pendulum swinging back their way, the Roosters charged downfield with the likes of Waerea-Hargreaves and Taukeiaho leading the way, and the Chookpen were in full cheer as Walker handed Ikuvalu his hat-trick with a trademark looping pass.
A cool and calm Keighran slotted the sideline conversion to reduce the deficit back to six with just over fifteen minutes left in the match, with the scores at 24-18.
With the clock winding down, Tedesco would call for a Captain's Challenge, but unfortunately, it would be déjà vu for the Tricolours as the call was unsuccessful, with the Eels kicking a field goal and scoring a try to take a 31-18 victory.
Sydney Roosters 18 (Matt Ikuvalu 3 tries; Sam Walker goal, Adam Keighran goal; Adam Keighran penalty goal) def by Parramatta Eels 31 (Bryce Cartwright 2, Blake Ferguson, Tom Opacic, Dylan Brown tries; Mitchell Moses 5 goals; Mitchell Moses field goal)
Stay tuned for more from Roosters.com.au including Match Highlights, Roosters TV Post-Match Interviews and Head Coach Trent Robinson's Press Conference!