NO goal-kicker? No problem. In a match worthy of its top-four billing the Sydney Roosters made hard work of their 18-12 victory over Manly at Allianz Stadium tonight.
Despite scoring four tries to two it wasn't until a Glenn Stewart error in the 80th minute that most of the 16,246 fans could rest easy in the knowledge that their side was back in the top two alongside arch-rivals South Sydney.
The loss leaves Manly sitting in a precarious position on the ladder with Gold Coast, Cronulla and Canterbury breathing down their necks just a point further back.
The visitors suffered a game-day blow just a few hours before kick-off with five-eighth Kieran Foran ruled out with a stomach virus where he was taken to hospital. The Roosters had their own problems at pivot with James Maloney ruled out after suffering a cheekbone injury for New South Wales in the Blues 26-6 loss to Queensland last Wednesday night.
However it was the Roosters who opened the scoring in the sixth minute through right winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Williams was involved after halfback Mitchell Pearce found him sweeping around the back on a second-man play before delivering the pass to Michael Jennings who drew Manly winger David Williams in to send his winger across untouched. Boyd Cordner took over the goalkicking duties from Maloney and it would be the Roosters' achilles heel throughout the match as they increased their score by fours instead of sixes.
A 9th-minute 40/20 kick from Matt Ballin gave the Sea Eagles the field position to set up camp well inside the Roosters half and that would be where they'd stay for the next 20 minutes. The sprinklers at the southern end of the ground could have been turned on such was the dominance of the Eagles at the northern end.
However, as seen earlier in the season the Roosters goal-line defence was impressive and they refused to buckle. At one stage they repelled the Manly side on eight successive occasions. After doing so much tackling for that 20-minute period the Roosters hit back on the counter attack through hooker Jake Friend. The nuggety hooker picked up the ball on the last tackle and took advantage of Anthony Watmough being the only marker, throwing a dummy before slicing through back behind the play-the-ball. Brett Stewart came across in cover but couldn't prevent Friend from sliding over beside the posts.
The second half was only two minutes old when Tuivasa-Sheck and Manly interchange forward James Hasson were involved in a sickening head clash. Hasson speared out of the line to put on a shot before both came together in a collision picked up by the ground microphones. Both players were helped from the field and didn't return.
Jamie Lyon closed the gap to a converted try in the 48th minute with a typical Manly play where both Brett and Glenn Stewart were involved down the right side, allowing Lyon to slide in between Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou.
Manly increased the intensity following points for the next 5 minutes before Sonny Bill Williams was the architect of a 50-metre Roosters try where he delivered a perfect cut-out pass to Jennings after running the ball on the last. Jennings drew David Williams before sending Tupou down the sideline who in turn passed back to Jennings as Brett Stewart came across in cover.
Next week the Roosters travel to WIN Jubilee on Saturday night while Manly host the Eels next Monday night.
Sydney Roosters 18 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 12
Venue: Sydney Football Stadium
Halftime Score: Sydney Roosters 8-0
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
2 points - Sonny Bill Williams
1 point - Boyd Cordner
SYDNEY ROOSTERS (18)
Tries: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jake Friend, Michael Jennings (2)
Conversions: Boyd Cordner (0/3), Mitchell Pearce (0/1)
Penalty Goals: Boyd Cordner (1/1)
MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES (12)
Tries: Jamie Lyon, George Rose
Conversions: Jamie Lyon (2/2)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Interchange: 14. Daniel Mortimer 16. Aidan Guerra 17. Sam Moa 18. Isaac Liu
Sea Eagles: 19. Brett Stewart 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Jamie Lyon (c) 4. Steve Matai 5. David Williams 15. Tom Symonds 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Brenton Lawrence 9. Matt Ballin 10. Brent Kite 11. Anthony Watmough 12. Justin Horo 13. Glenn Stewart
Interchange: 1. Pita Hiku 14. Jamie Buhrer 16. James Hasson 17. George Rose
Scored by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Conversion attempt by Boyd Cordner unsuccessful.
Tuivasa-Sheck opens the scoring for the Roosters! Lovely hands down the right side puts the winger over in the corner. Williams, Pearce and Minichiello combine to put Kenny-Dowell on the outside of Matai before he passed to Roger who dived over. Cordner can't add the extras from the sideline.
Sydney Roosters 4-0
Matt Ballin kicks a 40/20.
Ballin kicks out of dummy half and despite Minichiello's best efforts he can't stop the ball going in touch. Eagles scrum 10m out.
Scored by Jake Friend. Conversion attempt by Boyd Cordner unsuccessful.
Jake Friend scores a scintillating solo try! Picking the ball up from dummy half, the little hooker took advantage of the one marker, threw a dummy on the outside and darted in behind the play-the-ball before sliding over out wide. Cordner again can't add the extras.
Sydney Roosters 8-0
Scored by Jamie Lyon. Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon successful.
Lyon scores out wide for the Eagles, carrying Tupou and Kenny-Dowall over the line after a play involving both Stewart brothers puts the centre across. Lyon adds the extras from the sideline.
Sydney Roosters 8-6
Scored by Michael Jennings. Conversion attempt by Mitchell Pearce unsuccessful.
Jennings responds for the Roosters! They ran the ball down the left side with Sonny Bill delivering a great cut-out ball to put Jennings away. He drew the winger to send Tupou down the sideline before he found his centre back on the inside to score. Pearce this time can't convert.
Sydney Roosters 12-6
Penalty goal attempt by Boyd Cordner successful.
Cordner finally adds the two after three previous misses and the home side go out by more than a converted try.
Sydney Roosters 14-6
Scored by Michael Jennings. Conversion attempt by Boyd Cordner unsuccessful.
Jennings scores out wide to make it very difficult for the Eagles! Pearce found Sonny Bill who took the line on, drew in Williams before passing to Jennings to cross untouched in the corner. Cordner again can't add the extras.
Sydney Roosters 18-6
Scored by George Rose. Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon successful.
Big Georgey Rose charges onto a flat pass from Ballin and Lyon adds the extras quickly to close the gap to a converted try. Big finish coming up!
Sydney Roosters 18-12