The Sydney Roosters have kick-started their NRL title defence following the coronavirus-enforced shutdown of the season, recording a 28-12 win over arch rivals South Sydney at Western Sydney Stadium.
- The Roosters registered their first victory of the season
- James Tedesco was prominent for the defending premiers, scoring one of their five tries
- The Cowboys collected their second win, while the Titans remain at the bottom of the ladder
Meanwhile, North Queensland encountered little trouble on its way to a convincing 36-6 win over a hapless Gold Coast in Townsville earlier in the evening.
Playing 24 hours after the Eels and Broncos relaunched the NRL season in Brisbane, the Roosters got their first win of the year from three attempts in front of 515 Corflute cut-outs taking the place of spectators.
And as has so often been the case, James Tedesco was at the centre of the action after the Roosters led 12-6 at half-time.
The Roosters full-back laid the first major punch moments after the break when he bust through Cameron Murray and Troy Dargan from 30 metres out, before beating former teammate Latrell Mitchell to the line.
The reigning Dally M medallist finished the night with nine tackle busts and 267 metres, as he looked threatening again and again close to the line.
He also had a hand in a first-half try when he helped put Brett Morris and Daniel Tupou into clear air with some quick hands.
It allowed a chasing Kyle Flanagan to capitalise with his maiden try in Roosters colours when Morris kicked back in-field for him.
Luke Keary was again impressive at five-eighth for the Roosters.
Moments after Tedesco crashed over to start the second half, Keary went to the line and put captain Boyd Cordner over from close range.
It came after he had also helped open the scoring when he kicked across field for a leaping Daniel Tupou, who jumped above Dane Gagai to mark the ball and score.
Meanwhile, Brett Morris pulled off the play of the game in defence.
He at one stage dragged down Braidon Burns and Alex Johnston in the same play after the former made a 60-metre intercept, before backing it up to dive on a kick later in the set.
For the Rabbitohs, Mitchell had his moments in his highly-anticipated clash with his old club.
He spilled a simple ball on a kick return midway through the first half but put Cameron Murray over for the Rabbitohs’ first try before the break.
Tom Burgess got the Rabbitohs’ only other try in the second half, as Damien Cook and Murray combined to put him over from close to the line.
Cowboys hammer Titans
The Cowboys scored six tries to one, as halves Scott Drinkwater and Jake Clifford inspired the home side’s first win at their new stadium.
Off the back of another massive performance from lock Jason Taumalolo (274 run metres), Drinkwater set up two tries for winger Ben Hampton, while Clifford kept North Queensland’s foot on the Titans’ throat with his precision kicking.
Replacement hooker Reece Robson also crashed over twice to ensure North Queensland won its 10th straight match against the Titans.
Former Cronulla premiership winner Valentine Holmes had his best match since returning from a 2019 NFL sojourn, setting up three tries and running 113 metres.
The loss marked the third straight defeat for new Titans coach Justin Holbrook in a nightmare start for the former Super League premiership winner with St Helens.
Holbrook wielded the axe before the round-three clash, making six changes, but he was forced to make more before kick-off due to injury.
Tyrone Roberts (ankle) and Anthony Don (knee) pulled out with Jonus Pearson coming in on one wing, Brian Kelly on the other and Phillip Sami moving to full-back for Roberts.
But the new-look Gold Coast suffered the same old problem, with errors and poor last-play options ensuring North Queensland held the momentum.
After leading 14-6 at half-time, the Cowboys kicked away when Robson burrowed over from dummy half with two tries in four minutes midway through the term, as the floodgates opened.
After being limited to just 76 metres in the first half, Taumalolo tore the Titans apart in the second stanza.
Summing up their display, the Gold Coast failed to make the most of back rower Mitch Dunn’s 27th-minute sin-binning for a professional foul.
Cowboys back rower Coen Hess’s sin-binning in the dying minutes also could not help the Titans get over the line.