Bolstered by a host of returning players, the Sydney Roosters have returned to their winning ways with a 22-16 victory against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Bankwest Stadium.
Welcoming back the likes of Victor Radley, Billy Smith and Nat Butcher, the Tricolours claimed victory in a see-sawing arm wrestle despite being without State of Origin representatives James Tedesco and Angus Crichton.
The Roosters were led by an inspirational charge from stand-in captain Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who ran 215 metres in a 60-minute stint, while the returning Smith capped off his return to the NRL after a two-year layoff with a try.
Outside backs Joseph Manu and Matt Ikuvalu both passed the 200m mark and got on the scoresheet as Radley racked up a team-high 47 tackles.
Wearing their 2021 Home Jersey, the Red, White and Blue arrived at a damp Bankwest Stadium as they took the field for their 186th clash against the Bulldogs.
Making their way into opposition territory and keeping the Bulldogs in their own half after the opening exchanges, the Roosters made inroads from the outset, exhibiting strong running and resolute defence.
An early linebreak from Matt Ikuvalu put the Red, White and Blue in prime position to claim first points, and Smith went over as Drew Hutchison and Sam Walker put the young centre over the line in a brilliant start to the game.
Match: Bulldogs v Roosters
Round 17 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Rumbling downfield with plenty of intent and conviction, the Roosters' forwards laid the platform for the side's second try on the very next set, with a Walker trickshot on the line finding Sitili Tupouniua, who pounced on the bouncing ball to score.
In a dream first ten minutes, the Roosters took a 10-nil lead with Walker converting the second try.
With both sides eager with the ball in hand and conditions contributing heavily, the teams traded errors as the Bulldogs threatened to breach the Bondi Wall, and a chip and chase from five-eighth Lachlan Lewis handed them their first points.
A successful conversion to Jake Averillo saw the Roosters' lead close to four after a quarter of the match played.
Needing to regain momentum as their opponents looked to tie up the scores, a brutal shot from Victor Radley and Siosiua Taukeiaho dislodged the ball from a charging Jack Hetherington close to the line.
As both teams engaged in an arm wrestle with half-time looming, it was a sidestepping supremo in Joseph Manu who splashed under the posts to give his side breathing space with just ten minutes left in the first half.
But the Bulldogs would take advantage of a fortunate bounce of the ball soon after, and following an unfortunate error from the Tricolours, Lewis collected his second in the shadows of half-time.
Looking to shut down the Canterbury attack, Josh Morris showed his experience as he rag-dolled Lewis out of the field of play in a final hard-earned effort as the Roosters took a 16-10 lead going into the break.
Continuing to challenge one another in the opening exchanges of the second half, which included an audacious contested scrum, ill-disciplined continued to creep into the Tricolours' camp, and through sheer weight of possession the Bulldogs hit back through Nick Meaney.
With half an hour left in the contest, the scores were level at 16-all following a successful conversion from Averillo.
Needing to shut down the Dogs' kicking game and swing momentum back, a soaring Ikuvalu took a magnificent catch which no doubt cast the eyes of AFL recruiters, only for a Bulldogs defender to impede him and give away a penalty.
Back on the attack, strong charges from Radley and Manu put their side back in Bulldogs territory, and the hulking winger was rewarded for his bravery as a well-timed pass from Walker saw him sidestep his way over the line.
Round 17 Match Highlights: Roosters vs Bulldogs
With the conversion unsuccessful, the Roosters took a 20-16 lead just under half an hour left.
Another opportunity to extend the lead came in the form of a late tackle on the teenage halfback following a kick, but a scrambling Easts side failed to capitalise on their territory on a number of occasions as the heavens opened up.
Heading into the final quarter of the contest and with a heavy downpour turning Bankwest Stadium into a quagmire, Tupouniua led the way as the towering back rower broke through the line, only for a forward pass on the next tackle to burst the bubble for the Red, White and Blue.
Showing their intent with ball in the hand and looking to inspire their teammates, Tupouniua and Waerea-Hargreaves took to sheer physical dominance with a powerful shot on Canterbury captain Josh Jackson.
Manu, on the other hand, showed plenty of poise to hand his side a seven-tackle set after calmly taking a tricky high ball under pressure, and Walker emulated his fullback's temperament by forcing a line drop out soon after.
With the Tricolours on the line, a high tackle on Radley from Hetherington saw the Roosters' lead extend to a converted try with less than five minutes left thanks to a Walker penalty goal.
In bizarre fashion, the result was sealed with less than a minute to go as Walker turned a field goal attempt into a marathon run to the other side of the field, winding down the clock and handing the Roosters a 22-16 win.
Sydney Roosters 22 (Billy Smith, Sitili Tupouniua, Joseph Manu, Matt Ikuvalu tries; Sam Walker 2 goals; Sam Walker penalty goal) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16 (Lachlan Lewis 2, Nick Meaney tries; Jake Averillo 2 goals)
Stay tuned for more from Roosters.com.au including Match Highlights, Roosters TV Post-Match Interviews and Head Coach Trent Robinson's Press Conference!