James Tedesco scored his first points in a Sydney Roosters jersey showing his usual touch of class with two second-half tries to help propel his side to a slim 28-26 lead over the Manly Sea Eagles at Central Coast Stadium.
It wasn’t a bad effort by the boys from Bondi Junction as they were down 16-0 after just eight minutes and were down 22-16 at half-time.
After a quiet first half, where he was hardly sighted, Tedesco came alive in the 50th minute chasing a Jake Friend grubber into the in-goal and then chipping for himself in the 55th to regather and fall over the line.
His second four-pointer was decisive as it put the Roosters ahead in the match for the first time.
It was vast change in story line since Manly had all the field possession and better handling in the opening 40 minutes.
The Tedesco magic was also without the aid of the Roosters’ highest-profile recruit – Test halfback Cooper Cronk, who had come from the field in the 53rd minute.
Tedesco was rewarded with a rest on the bench in the 60th minute as the Gosford crowd kept chanting: “Teddy’s a Rooster”.
Mitchell also scored twice for the Roosters and rounded off his night with two goals from three attempts.
It was a strange turn of events as it seemed the Manly spine of Tom Trbojevic, Lachlan Croker, Daly Cherry-Evans and Api Koroisau were having the better night in terms of gelling as a combination more than their opposition spine of Tedesco, Cronk, Mitch Cornish and Jake Friend.
Fair to say that Cornish won’t retain the No.6 jersey once Luke Keary recovers from his fractured jaw. And Friend and Cronk seemed to have started as industrious a hooker-halfback relationship as the former Melbourne Storm No.7 enjoyed with Cameron Smith. The pair are not unfamiliar with each other having worked at a couple of Queensland Origin camps, when Friend was invited on the extended bench under former Maroons coach Mal Meninga.
On the other side of the field Croker and Cherry-Evans appeared in synch, with the young former Canberra No.6 sending through some quality grubbers and linking nicely with prop Martin Taupau on the Sea Eagles left edge.
Manly opened the scoring with a five-minute burst of possession for Manly producing three tries – to Akuila Uate (3rd minute), Curtis Sironen (6th) and Matthew Wright (8th).
Cherry-Evans took over the kicking in absence of Dylan Walker (shoulder, ankle) as he continues his rehab from off-season surgeries, and managed to convert two of those as Manly raced to a 16-0 lead.
The Roosters pegged it back to within four points with converted tries to Latrell Mitchell and Jake Friend.
Manly camped themselves in the Roosters’ 20-metre zone late in the first half. Through tiring defence Tom Trbojevic waltzed to the line off the pass of dummy half Api Koroisau to put Manly 10 points ahead (22-12).
However the Roosters had the last laugh of the opening stanza scoring in the 38th minute with Mitchell dancing and fending off tacklers to get over the line. But they still went to the sheds six points down (22-16) but Robinson must have been waiting. It was a far more committed Roosters outfit in the second half.
Roosters 28 (L Mitchell 2, J Tedesco 2, J Friend tries; S Taukeiaho 2; L Mitchell 2 goals) def. Sea Eagles 26 (A Uate 2, C Sironen, M Wright, T Trbojevic tries; D Cherry-Evans 3 goals).