Roosters Hold Off Improved Bulldogs
Words by Martin Gabor , National Correspondent , NRL.com
The Roosters' red-hot start to the season has continued after they held off the Bulldogs with a thrilling 28-24 win at Allianz Stadium on Thursday night.
It took nine rounds for the Tricolours to register two wins in 2016, but last year's strugglers have already equalled that mark a fortnight into the new season.
The halves pairing of Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce picked up from where they left off on the Gold Coast with the duo playing a part in almost all of their side's five tries.
There were plenty of positive signs for the Bulldogs who started and finished the game on fire despite being ravaged by injuries throughout the contest.
The Roosters suffered a setback of their own just before kick off with big man Kane Evans a late scratching after picking up a lower-leg injury in the warm-up.
After being blown off the park against the Storm in the opening exchanges last week, the Bulldogs flew out of the gates on Thursday with Kerrod Holland diving over out wide inside three minutes to give his side an early lead.
However, the winger was forced from the field moments later with a shoulder injury that forced a major reshuffle in the Bulldogs backline, sending Josh Morris to right centre and Brenko Lee to the wing.
It took just 60 seconds for Morris to make an immediate impact in his new role with the speedster punishing a Shaun Kenny-Dowall midfield error to touch down in the corner.
Momentum was with the Bulldogs at that stage, but it swung on its head in the 13th minute when Roosters skipper Jake Friend nailed a 40/20 out of dummy-half to finally put his side on the attack.
That was all the invitation they needed as Keary attracted three defenders with his pace before be popped a pass to Boyd Cordner who fell over the line to make it a two-point game.
With the crowd urging them on, the Roosters took the ascendency. Mitchell Pearce got them on the front foot with a glorious ball that put Blake Ferguson into space, and from the ensuing play Daniel Tupou latched onto a deft grubber from Latrell Mitchell to give his side the lead.
They would have moved further in front but missed two half-chances when Keary fumbled a loose ball when he should have toed it forward, before Mitchell put down a sharp opportunity to intercept a Moses Mbye pass with open pastures in front of him.
It was a case of third time lucky for the Roosters when Tupou flew through the air to reel in a pinpoint Keary kick to extend the lead, before Michael Gordon knocked over a penalty goal to make it 16-8 at the break.
The change of ends did little to halt their momentum and the home side extended their lead when Kenny-Dowall leapt highest to claim Pearce's cross-field kick, before the Kiwis winger offloaded back inside for Ferguson to score.
Things were getting ugly for the Bulldogs until veteran winger Brett Morris powered his way over to finish off some lightning quick hands down the left edge to cut the gap to 10 points to give them a sniff with half an hour left to play.
That sniff turned into a powerful aroma when Adam Elliott charged onto a flat pass from James Graham to score virtually untouched to set up a grandstand finish.
The Roosters should have iced the game with 10 minutes to play when Keary chipped over Moses Mbye who was isolated on the wing, but Kenny Dowall couldn't ground the Steeden.
Their fans needn't have worried as the ever-reliable Mitchell Aubusson charged through a hole courtesy of a Keary short ball and showed enough pace to plant the ball next to the corner post to seal the nervy win, although there were some sweaty palms in the stands when Josh Morris punished a Keary error to race in for his second late in the contest to get the Dogs within four.
The Roosters will be sweating on the fitness of Blake Ferguson who succumbed to a chest injury that had been troubling him for most of the game.
The Bulldogs have their own concerns with back-rower Greg Eastwood forced off with a leg injury while Will Hopoate left the field late in the game following a sickening head clash with Zane Tetevano.
Roosters 28 (Daniel Tupou 2, Boyd Cordner, Blake Ferguson, Mitchell Aubusson tries; Michael Gordon 4 goals) def. Bulldogs 24 (Josh Morris 2, Kerrod Holland, Brett Morris, Adam Elliott tries; Moses Mbye 2 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: 16-8. Crowd: 13,505.
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