Despite a brave early showing from the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, the Roosters proved too strong in the end running out 24-10 winners at ANZ Stadium.
Club captain James Graham, Josh Reynolds and Greg Eastwood all returned to the starting side. Moses Mbye started in the centres pushing Chase Stanley out of the 17 while Frank Pritchard was in the run on, with Tony Willams starting from the bench.
The match was touted as a battle of the halves with Origin selection on the line for Blues incumbents Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds. Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney were the challengers.
It was a less than ideal start for the Bulldogs, with Hodkinson kicking out on the full after just two minutes giving Roosters the opportunity to strike first. However, a strong tackle from Graham forced an error from Pearce.
Reynolds earned a repeat set with a clever grubber in the 8th minute which gave Bulldogs the chance to open the scoring themselves. And they took it. On the last tackle they spread the ball to the left and a round-the-back pass from Frank Pritchard found a free Curtis Rona, who crossed for his 11th try of the season. Hodkinson failed with the conversion leaving it 4-0 in the 11th minute.
Roosters had a try disallowed in the 21st minute for obstruction with Pritchard taken out before Roger Tuivasa-Sheck slid through the gap created.
Roosters came close again soon after but for a try-saving tackle from Josh Jackson on Jake Friend in the 23rd minute, forcing the ball loose just short of the line.
In a pivotal moment, Graham next copped a knock in attempting a low tackle on Aiden Guerra. He didn’t return due to concussion.
It was an outstanding defensive display from the Bulldogs in the first half an hour but the mounting pressure finally told in the 36th minute with a Friend cut-out pass finding Daniel Tupou unmarked on the wing. Maloney struck the post with his conversion attempt for a 4-4 score line.
Tuivasa-Sheck then zipped through the attempted tackles of Hodkinson and Williams to put the Roosters in front just before the break. Maloney added the two for a 10-4 lead.
Roosters had 55% of possession in the first 40 minutes but the most telling stat was 11 tackle breaks compared to the Bulldog’s four.
A mistake in the opening set from Michael Lichaa gave Roosters great possession early but Bulldogs repelled the raid.
It was all Roosters but the Bulldogs hung in. Birthday boy Corey Thompson came close in the 57th minute but was shoved out of play by a covering Tupou. In the subsequent six, Michael Jennings set sail for the corner but desperate defence forced him over the sideline too.
Tim Browne was penalised in the 60th minute for lying in the tackle and Roosters opted for the two with Maloney stretching the lead to 12-4.
Roosters charged up the field from the next set of tackles and a towering bomb was fumbled by Sam Perrett. Mitchell Aubusson was on hand to pick up the scraps to score his team’s third try of the night. Maloney added the extras for 18-4.
A rattling tackle from Jared Waerea-Hargeaves forced a turnover from Aiden Tolman and Guerra got in on the act in the 72nd minute with Friend getting another assist. Maloney added the two from in front for 24-4.
Moses Mbye picked up a late consolation, showing blistering speed to chase down a Reynolds kick to score under the posts. Hodkinson added the two for a 24-10 final score.
Bulldogs are hosted by Canberra at GIO Stadium next Sunday afternoon, with kick-off 4pm local time.
ROOSTERS 24 (Tupou, Tuivasa-Sheck, Aubusson, Guerra Tries; Maloney 4 Goals) def. BULLDOGS 10 (Rona, Mbye Tries; Hodkinson 1 Goal)
At: ANZ Stadium