Sydney Roosters ensured Luke Keary was sent out a winner in his 200th NRL match with a dominant 30-14 victory over the Dolphins at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
A repeat of the season opener between the two sides appeared possible early as the Dolphins got out to an 8-0 lead before the Roosters switched on with five straight tries led by a double to halfback Drew Hutchison.
Hutchison's efforts were equally matched by Keary, who set up a try and played a hand in two more in a result that keeps the Roosters in the finals race with three rounds remaining.
Dolphins bench forward Ray Stone, returning from a broken hand, opened the scoring from close range when he burrowed his way over the line despite the attention of four defenders.
The visitors extended their lead to eight after Terrell May was penalised with Jamayne Isaako slotting a goal five minutes before half-time.
Joseph Manu try 39th minute
A penalty conceded for a flop by Valynce Te Whare enabled the Roosters some territory on the stroke of the break with James Tedesco providing a pass for Joseph Manu to cross back inside to the line.
The try swung momentum to start the second half with the Roosters running two tries in eight minutes to set up an 18-8 lead.
Roosters centre Billy Smith got one-on-one with Te Whare and showed fancy footwork to beat three defenders to the line before Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii out-leaped Tesi Niu to get the ball down.
Even the Hammer didn't have the pace to escape this
Things got worse for the Dolphins when Stone was sin-binned for a high tackle on Hutchison - the Roosters halfback rubbing salt in the wounds by splitting through the line to extend the home side's lead.
Hutchison was over again in near identical circumstances, this time on the left edge, to put the game beyond reach for the visitors with a 30-8 scoreline ensuring the Roosters stayed within reach of an unlikely top eight finish in 2023.
Match: Roosters v Dolphins
Round 24 -
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
- The Roosters' victory was their first back-to-back effort since April.
- Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary celebrated his 200th NRL appearance.
- Roosters forward Dylan Napa made his return to the NRL in the 58th minute after a two-year stint at both the Bulldogs and in the Super League.
- Dolphins back-rower Connelly Lemuelu failed a head injury assessment in the 27th minute and did not return under Category 1 concussion protocols.
- The Dolphins lost Kenny Bromwich to a failed head injury assessment, compounding the loss of Connelly Lemuelu earlier in the game.
- Dolphins forward Ray Stone was placed on report and sin-binned for a high tackle on Drew Hutchison.
- Hutchison's double was the first of his NRL career.
- Dolphins winger Jamayne Isaako has now scored 20 tries in 21 games this season.
- The Dolphins have now won only two of their last 11 matches.
Play of the game
Billy Smith's return in 2023 has been inspirational after years of injuries with the left centre's effort after half-time setting the Roosters up for the second half. His footwork to step inside and slide through the Dolphins defensive line showed why the Roosters have supported Smith through his injury run in a bid to see him back to his best.
Billy Smith try 43rd minute
What they said
"I did a little bit of reflecting this week [on the 200th], it's just special to have these two little ones (children) with me. We know we need to win every single game from here. We were rattled for 20-30 minutes but I said to the boys at half-time that we were coming over the top of them and to stick at it." - Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary
Roosters: Round 24
"I don't think our football was too bad it was just the amount of injuries we took and decision of the sin-bin had as much to do with the result. I'm not denying he (Ray Stone) hit him (Drew Hutchison) in the head and fair enough but we had Kodi Nikorima get hit in the head as well and it was just put on report and a penalty. I thought the sin-bin was way over the top and had a huge impact on the game." - Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett
Dolphins: Round 24
"It was a good tussle there in the first half but I felt like we moved a lot better in the second. It got us a good gap on them. These guys were moving well but Teddy started to cut some angles towards the first half. I thought Tyrell May and Fletcher Baker had a really big impact. I was pleased with Sandon [Smith] going into nine but then those two changed the speed around the middle." - Roosters coach Trent Robinson
The Roosters have a must-win clash against the Eels next week with the loser all but certain to miss the 2023 finals series. The Dolphins take on Wests Tigers at CommBank Stadium to kick off Super Saturday in Round 25.