A much-improved second-half performance helped the Sydney Roosters see off cellar-dwelling Newcastle 29-12 in a scrappy NRL clash on Saturday at Allianz Stadium.
Tries from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jake Friend and Issac Liu after the restart sealed the two points in a scrappy affair played in front of a subdued crowd of 9847.
It was a complete contrast to the premiers’ opening 40 minutes when they looked disjointed in attack and lethargic in defence as the visitors belied their lowly position with a fully-committed showing.
The Knights came into the game on the back of six straight losses, but on the day the NRL announced it had taken ownership of the club from Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group, they appeared to have an extra spring in their step as they opened up a 12-6 lead at the break.
Veteran back-rower Jeremy Smith darted over from close range within eight minutes to open the scoring with Tyrone Roberts adding the extras.
A Tuivasa-Sheck four-pointer converted by James Maloney levelled the scores before Jake Mamo chalked up his first NRL try on the stroke of halftime with an excellent finish in the corner.
Former NSW halves pairing Mitchell Pearce and Maloney started to exert their influence in the second stanza as the Roosters woke up from the early slumber and, 11 minutes after halftime, Tuivasa-Sheck scored his second of the night.
The Kiwi winger took full advantage of James McManus’ indecision under Maloney’s towering bomb and touched down.
Kenny-Dowall then gave the hosts the lead for the first time with McManus again targeted, this time by Pearce, as the centre hauled in a perfectly weighted kick.
That try knocked the stuffing out of the Knights, who were camped in their own half for most of the second period and failed to add to the first-half tally, and Friend and Liu added some extra gloss to the scoreline late on.
Maloney finished the game with four goals and a field goal.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said he didn’t have to say much to his players at halftime to get the side back on track but believed they’re still some way from their best despite seven wins from their past eight games.
“We got to our kicks in the second half and made some nice attacks,” Robinson said.
“There was some good footy and some disappointing footy at different times but we righted some wrongs in the second half.
“On results, we have been good but, on form, we’ve only been OK.
“We’ve done some good stuff, shown why we’re a good team but haven’t been hard-nosed enough. But there is a lot of time to go between now and the end of the season.
“We can get better.”
Knights coach Wayne Bennett bemoaned his side’s lack of execution in the second half and said his depleted side, which was missing Darius Boyd, Kade Snowden, Beau Scott and Adam Cuthbertson, were lacking confidence.
“There hasn’t been a game all year we haven’t been in. We just keep finding a way to get out of it,” Bennett said.
“It turned on two kicks where we dropped the ball – it just killed us.
“We were doing so well but gifted them two tries and it’s gone from 12-6 up to 18-12 down and made it hard for them after that.
“But we’re depleted, they’re trying hard and errors hurt us.”