Sam Walker and Joseph Suaalii have led the Roosters to a 31-24 win over Parramatta in the showpiece Sunday afternoon clash at Magic Round.
Trent Robinson described the performance of his 18-year-old winger, who scored twice and set the standard with ball in hand, as ‘very special’.
“It’s the toughness and the class that he showed,” said the Roosters coach. “For an 18-year-old, that’s very special. It’s natural that you have to work on the really hard areas with young guys because they just don’t get it in lower grades.
“With Suaalii, he’s hardly played reserve grade but has walked in and dreamed about those hard areas and taken them on board.
“He’s got good mentors in Teddy and Toups (James Tedesco and Daniel Tupou) at the back there and he’s put his hand up, and he knows he’s got that class at the end.”
Walker scored an excellent individual try and kicked superbly, but according to Robinson, was angry at himself in the sheds after missed five tackles in the second half.
“Sam’s disappointed in there, which I really like,” said Robison. “He knows he can do that stuff that he did in the first half, he knows he can see the game well.
“He pushed our lead forward there but he’s very disappointed with his D. He’s been much better that than for most of the year.
“I really like that he’s got that attitude to equalise that he knows ‘I can do that, but I’ve also got to do that’.”
Walker was matched every step of the way by Mitchell Moses, who also scored a stunning solo effort and created several others for his side.
Parramatta might be disappointed that they didn’t get the result in the end.
They did all the things that usually result in a win – completing high, kicking long and winning the possession battle – but perhaps failed to find the incisiveness that they have had on other occasions this year.
Brad Arthur felt like scoring 24 points against the Roosters and not winning will tell its own tale of where their weakness was to be found.
“Our defence is not at the standard that it needs to be at if we’re serious about what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s just not good enough.
“If we score 24 points, it should be enough to win a game of footy. I’m not taking anything away from them because they’re a good team and they make you work hard but if you score 24 points we should be winning a game of football.”
“Our start was poor. In games that we have lost this year, we’ve been beaten to the punch at the start of the game.
“We’re waiting to see what the opposition are going to do when we need to go after the game at the start.
“I was happy that we had that fight in us in the second half and we didn’t go away in the contest, but against good teams if you give them that much of a start on the scoreboard, it’s hard to peg back.”
The Roosters started promisingly. They might well have got over through Paul Momirovski, but for a superb Clint Gutherson tackle. It wouldn’t matter: Jared Wearea-Hargreaves was able to step, dummy and overcome an attempted tackle from Reed Mahoney to open the scoring.
The big men tries would keep coming, Mitchell Moses split the line straight up the middle and send Isiah Papali’I under the posts to strike straight back.
Any pretence of a grind, however, was swiftly abandoned. Gutherson made an uncharacteristic error from a kick to prove James Tedesco with a try, before Tom Opacic held back the Roosters fullback to earn himself ten minuties in the bin.
Sam Walker didn’t waste the advantage. He took the penalty goal before producing a classic chip and chase for himself to extend the lead out to 20-6.
Parra weren’t out of it. They piled on pressure, ending the half with 58% of the territory and 28 tackles within the Roosters’ 20m area, but couldn’t get over the stripe. Bailey Simonssen came closest, but his attempt was pulled back for a double movement.
The half ended with two drops: Moses, in good ball on the last tackle, fluffed his lines and up the other end, Walker underlined his own personal performance with a field goal to take the score to 21-6.
It was all going so well for the Chooks. Even when they missed, as a Joey Manu flick pass in the direction of Sitili Tupouniua did, the ball dribbled through untouched for Joseph Suaalii to score.
The fightback came, and it was all inspired by Mitchell Moses. First, the halfback put Papali’I through a gap to hit back, then he came up with a momentous individual effort to make it yet closer.
The halfback kicked along the floor for himself, hacked on around James Tedesco and touched down for one of the best individual tries of the year.
Moses rode his hot hand into a captain’s challenge, too, overturning a knock on call and giving his team field position from which Ryan Matterson could score under the posts.
The Roosters needed to fire up again, and once again, it was Suaalii. Luke Keary’s kick was exactly where it needed to be, but the manner in which the winger dominated Hayze Perham in the air was spectacular.
The Chooks kept up the pressure and moved out to beyond a converted try with a Sam Walker penalty goal.