Ponga impresses but can’t save Knights
TRIES early in each half gave the Roosters the slightest of edges as they were pushed to the final second by a defiant Newcastle but held on to make it three wins in a row with an 18-16 victory.
The Roosters' held an eight-point advantage with just a few minutes left in the match but the Knights made it an exhilarating finish courtesy of the now customary Kalyn Ponga brilliance.
Ponga featured twice in a try-scoring play, including finishing it off and converting to keep the game in the balance.
A last play keep-it-alive by Newcastle on the final siren had the 18,000 fans at McDonald Jones Stadium on the edge of their seats. It wasn't to be, though, an offload going to ground for the Roosters to dive on and end the panic.
The loss for the Knights was only made worse by another player joining the injury ward after Jamie Buhrer did his ACL in the first half, putting him alongside Mitchell Pearce (pec), Daniel Saifiti (foot), Jacob Saifiti (shoulder), Nathan Ross (hamstring) and Tautau Moga (ACL).
The Roosters went into the match without NSW captain Boyd Cordner, who was rested after Origin, and a reshuffled forward lineup as Queensland prop Dylan Napa shifted to the bench.
But NSW stars James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell showed little wear from Wednesday's match, Mitchell opening the scoring and being denied in the second half and Tedesco running for a game-high 160 metres.
Coach Trent Robinson was pleased with how they backed up but said the impact of Origin and Newcastle losing Jamie Buhrer in the first half to an ACL injury evened the match out.
"The boys backing up, we've watched over the weekend, it's a big task," he said.
"I thought they did well. Not having Boyd but Newcastle had their trials and tribulations as well there, I think I heard the bad news there with Jamie.
"It ended up being a contest. I thought the game opened there a bit more and we just got the two points and handled it slightly better and that's what got us the win.
"I thought they (Origin players) were pretty good. You can see it takes a toll and you could see they were fighting to get their game on and I thought they did OK."
A 12-8 halftime lead for the Roosters was 16-8 just minutes into the second period when Blake Ferguson fooled Knights centre Cory Denniss with a dart from dummy-half near the line to barge over winger Ken Sio one-on-one.
The Knights brought it back to six with a penalty goal, but the Roosters earned slight breathing space again when they opted for the shot at goal with 20 minutes left in the match.
It was a smart move being a player down after Napa was sin binned following repeated penalties from the team, including two from him.
But when Ponga sent a beautiful ball to a hard running Sione Matu'utia and got it back to score late in the match the result was far from decided.
It showed why Robinson had never felt like the game was won. He was happy with his side's defensive commitment to hold on.
"You never feel comfortable. Eight-point lead, I thought there was some good kicking from us when we had that lead," Robinson said.
"I thought we might jag one and we had that disallowed try when Luke's (Keary) hand touched the ball and I thought we were doing some really good stuff there but we couldn't get to 14.
"Then a defensive error and they get to get within two and we have to defend our way to victory."
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 18(B Ferguson 2 L Keary tries L Mitchell 3 goals) bt NEWCASTLE 16 (S Mata'utia K Ponga tries K Ponga 4 goals) at McDonald Jones Stadium. Referee: Alan Shortall, Jon Stone. Crowd: 18,029.