Sydney Roosters beat Cronulla as Melbourne Storm, Gold Coast post massive NRL wins
Teenage halfback Sam Walker has put on a performance for the ages to lead the Sydney Roosters to a sensational 26-18 comeback win over Cronulla.
After the Roosters trailed 18-4 with just 19 minutes to play at the SCG, Walker set up two tries and scored one of his own in the space of just seven minutes to leave the Sharks stunned.
In Saturday’s earlier matches, the Melbourne Storm thrashed Canterbury 52-18 and Gold Coast outclassed Newcastle 42-16.
Playing in just his second NRL match at age 18, Walker showed composure well beyond his years.
The result also came with the Roosters forced to play without third-string hooker Freddy Lussick, leaving rookie Benjamin Marschke to deputise for 63 minutes at dummy half.
The Sharks also had their own issues, with Wade Graham suffering his second concussion in the space of 15 days and Josh Dugan also failing a HIA.
The Roosters’ comeback started through Walker’s halves partner Drew Hutchison, who dummied and sliced his way past Chad Townsend with 19 minutes to play.
But even then, a fightback looked unlikely.
A perfectly executed cut-out ball from the halfback allowed Daniel Tupou to cross in the corner with 10 minutes to play.
Fittingly the number seven then levelled the scores himself when he dummied and stepped his way back inside Townsend to cross.
And by the 76th minute the match was wrapped up with a perfect two-man cut-out ball for Brett Morris to score his 11th try of the season.
It came after Walker had also set up the winger with another cut-out ball earlier in the match, helping equal Michael Cleary’s record from 1962 for the most tries inside the first five rounds.
Walker’s brilliance came as a cruel blow to the Sharks and under-pressure coach John Morris, who looked poised to claim their biggest scalp in more than 20 months.
After not beating a top-eight side all last year, they were dominant from the opening set when Toby Rudolf broke down field.
The Sharks looked as if they had made a point to target Walker in defence, scoring their first try when they ran it down the last on his edge and their second when Will Kennedy pushed through him.
But even after Townsend and Jesse Ramien combined to help Jack Williams score and give them a 14-point lead just after the break, it was Walker and the Roosters who had the last laugh.
Storm run riot against woeful Bulldogs
The Melbourne Storm ran in an astonishing nine tries to beat Canterbury 52-18 and consign the winless Bulldogs to a fifth straight loss to start the season.
A Luke Thompson try in the 22nd minute against the Storm at Stadium Australia finally ended a painful 265-minute wait for Bulldogs fans to have something to cheer about in what has been a harrowing start to the year.
Should North Queensland upset the Wests Tigers and join first-time winners Manly on Sunday, the Bulldogs will be the only side yet to win so far this season.
Their 0-5 win-loss start is the club’s worst since 1964.
Canterbury’s sorry defence in front of a crowd of 5,104 spectators overshadowed the ruthlessness of the Storm, who produced their biggest score of the season.
Craig Bellamy’s men were racing the clock inside the opening 18 minutes, with Felise Kaufusi, Jahrome Hughes and Christian Welch all scoring in easy fashion.
Thompson’s four-pointer for the Bulldogs was a mere blip, as Tui Kamikamica and George Jennings ensured the Storm led by four tries at half-time.
A cricket score loomed when Ryan Papenhuyzen remarkably chased down a Jennings kick early in the season period, only for Bulldogs youngster Jake Averillo to showcase a glimpse of his future.
The 20-year-old scored a try, laid on another, and nailed a 40-20 in the space of an eye-catching 11-minutes.
But it only served to wake up the visitors, who cracked the half-century through tries to Justin Olam, Josh Addo-Carr and Nicho Hynes.
Titans hammer Knights
The return of Kalyn Ponga was not enough to stop a David Fifita-inspired Gold Coast romping to a 42-16 win over a depleted Newcastle in Robina.
To be fair to Ponga, it is unlikely anyone would have made much of a difference against a rampant Titans outfit who ran in eight tries to three, including a first career hat-trick for Fifita.
Plenty of eyes may have been on Knights star Ponga in his first match of 2021 after the ex-Queensland fullback was welcomed back from off-season shoulder surgery.
But it was Fifita who stole the show as the Titans claimed their third win in five matches to pile on more misery for the injury-hit Knights.
Ponga’s return had been welcome good news for Newcastle, who had lost 10 of their top-29 squad to injury or suspension in the first four rounds.
But there was more pain to come for the visitors, who lost try-scoring lock Chris Randall (shoulder) in the 19th minute.
For the Titans, pivot Ash Taylor (broken hand) returned to combine with number seven Jamal Fogarty who showed no signs of a corked thigh suffered last round as the hosts ran amok, with Corey Thompson and Patrick Herbert both bagging doubles.
But the hosts did not emerge unscathed, losing winger Phillip Sami (concussion) in a seventh-minute tackle that resulted in Tyson Frizell being placed on report.
Fifita crossed for his first try in the 22nd minute when he left Frizell in his wake.
He again broke through the Knights defence to crash over in the 32nd and 52nd minutes.
It marked Gold Coast’s sixth straight win over Newcastle, who has not tasted victory on the tourist strip since 2015.
Not much went right for the Knights, with Enari Tuala appearing to cross in the 47th minute after a Ponga bust to potentially cut the deficit to 26-18, only for it to be disallowed when replays showed he had been held up by Brian Kelly.
The signs were ominous from the outset for the visitors, after Ponga started the match by kicking the ball out on the full.
Little else went to plan for the Knights as Gold Coast made them pay, jumping to a 12-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes and leading 26-6 by the 32nd minute.
Gold Coast flyer Herbert was sin-binned shortly before half-time for a professional foul before Newcastle’s Starford Toa crashed over moments later, cutting the deficit at the break to 26-12.
But the Titans piled on another three tries in the second half, including a remarkable length-of-the-field effort scored by Herbert after an AJ Brimson bust off a kick re-start.