The Roosters beat the Eels 31-24 thanks to masterclass performances from youngsters Sam Walker and Joseph Suaalii in the Magic Round game.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves burst in from close range to give the Roosters a 6-0 lead after having all the ball early.
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The Eels fought back with Mitchell Moses setting up Isaiah Papali’i for a try under the posts to equalize at 6-6 after a frantic 10-minute opener.
Clint Gutherson failed to deliver a back kick allowing his counterpart James Tedesco to pounce and give the Roosters a 12-6 lead.
Tom Opacic was trashed for tackling Tedesco without the ball allowing Sam Walker to extend the Roosters’ lead to 14-6.
Walker produced a brilliant chip and regrouped on Gutherson to make it 20-6.
Walker netted a field goal from 30 yards to make it 21-6 at the break to put the icing on the cake of a dominant first half for the Roosters.
The Roosters picked up where they left off in the second half with Joey Manu producing a bizarre flick pass that missed Paul Momirovski and bounced into Joseph Suaalii’s lap to make it 25-6.
Papali’i gave the Eels an air of comeback with his second try of the afternoon to cut the lead to 13.
Moses then produced a brilliant solo try to make it a seven-point game before the final half hour.
Ryan Matterson charged his former club to score under the posts and make it a one-point game heading into the final quarter.
However, Suaalii produced a catch that wouldn’t look out of place in an AFL game to score his second and give the Roosters some breathing room.
A penalty for a high tackle by Dylan Brown on Sitili Tupouniua allowed Walker to extend the lead to seven points to seal the Roosters victory.
Here are the main takeaways from the game.
WALKER SHINES AS ROOSTER HALVES RESPOND TO CRITICISM
The Roosters halves had their fair share of criticism in 2022, but Sam Walker and Luke Keary put in their best performance as a combination to lead their side to an upset win over the Eels.
Walker in particular was excellent at setting up a try for James Tedesco and producing a brilliant chip and chase try for himself when the Eels were down to 12 men.
Cooper Cronk praised Walker for his vision in isolating Clint Gutherson who was caught out of position.
“That was the first half try because that’s Sam Walker at his best,” Cronk said.
“He realized Tom Opacic was in the trash so Gutherson comes to defend in the line and Sam Walker did that in the backyard when he was a kid at Ipswich.
“He realizes the opportunity is there, hitting it over the top and he had acres of space to knock that ball down. He summed up the play so well.”
Benji Marshall believes the Roosters halves have shown they are worth sticking with as a combination after their assured performance with both players complimenting each other in a true team effort.
“I like the evolution of the Roosters’ halves,” Marshall said.
“They have come under a lot of criticism this season for not putting up performances as a good combination.
“But Sam Walker today, the kick for the Tedesco try, the vision to do the chip and chase try on his own.
And just before half-time, the presence of mind to take the field goal. They lead by 14 and he just slows down and they lead by 15 and win by seven at the end.
“I think he was a real game-changer. Keary controls the ship and that allows Walker to play off the back of it. It was a great game for both of them.”
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EAGER EELS CONTINUE INCONSISTENT SEASON
The Eels were brave coming back in the second half but ultimately their poor start left them with too much to do and once again they failed to back up a strong performance with another win.
The Eels have been inconsistent in 2022 and despite toppling the Premier’s favorites in the Storm and Eels, they can’t seem to string together two strong performances together.
The Eels found themselves trailing 21-6 at half-time and it left them with too much to do, despite an epic fightback led by Mitchell Moses.
Cooper Cronk believes the Eels needed to go through the middle more in the first half, which was a ploy that worked for them within 40 seconds.
“The Eels had 27 tackles inside the Roosters 20-yard line in the first half and Papali’i was trying to get to Sam Walker, but Walker was holding his gloves,” Cronk said.
“I would have liked to see Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard use a few short passes in the middle third and get that forward momentum.”
Benji Marshall thinks the Eels are guilty of trying to score every play, which hurts their ability to press, especially early in the game.
“The Eels don’t have to try all the time for the big game,” Marshall said.
“Try to set it up and play with them a bit more.
“It looks like the Eels are trying to score a lot of their games.”
Isaiah Papali’I and Moses were great for the Eels, especially in the second half, but if they don’t improve on their early game they won’t play consistently enough to win three or four final games in a row and break their premiership drought.
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SUAALII DEMONSTRATES IMMENSE POTENTIAL
Joseph Suaalii set himself up as a potential superstar of the future with his best freshman game to help lead the Roosters to victory.
With the game balanced at 25-24 in the second half, Suaalii soared to produce one of the catches of the season to score his second and give the Roosters some much-needed respite.
The try was his second of the half and helped thwart a potential game-winning comeback from the Eels.
“Suaalii above the pack as good as you’ll see,” Warren Smith roared on Fox League.
“The springs he has and his timing were perfect.”
Greg Alexander praised Suaalii for his superb jump in a performance which showed just how good he can be in the NRL going forward.
“It’s so good to watch,” Alexander said.
“Joseph Suaalii times his run and jump and hold to perfection. Winger Eels Hayze Perham was there and he climbed and all over him.
“It was spectacular from Joseph Suaalii. What a player he is going to be. What a player he already is.
Cooper Cronk thinks Suaalii has announced himself as an NRL superstar.
“Suaalii came in with two tries and 150 yards,” Cronk said.
The Sydney Roosters host the Parramatta Eels in a blockbuster Magic Round clash at Suncorp Stadium.
Connor Watson returns in injury form for the Roosters in a timely boost after the loss of hooker Sam Verrills.
Sio Siua Taukeiaho will start in the front row for the suspended Lindsay Collins, with Daniel Suluka-Fifita and Fletcher Baker on the bench.
the Eels remained confident in the same 17 that handed the Panthers their first loss of the season in Round 9.
It’s a tantalizing clash between point guards Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown against Roosters duo Luke Keary and Sam Walker.
It sets the stage for an exciting Magic Round penultimate match with both sides desperate for a win.
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