Playing below their best, NRL premiers the Sydney Roosters have outlasted a gutsy Warriors side for an 18-10 win in Gosford.
The Warriors led 10-6 at halftime, but the boot of Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary eventually weakened their defence on Saturday afternoon as Trent Robinson’s men escaped with the win late.
Keary produced a try assist, a try and four repeat sets on the Warriors’ line in the second half to tire out the gritty defence.
Fireworks sparked late in the second half when Warriors loan prop Jack Hetherington took on Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in a personal battle up front.
The two came face-to-face, gripping jerseys, and made a mission to run at one another, raising the intensity late in the game.
Taking a hit-up with 10 minutes to go, the New Zealand international charged at Hetherington, who didn’t back down from the confrontation.
But the energy lifted the Roosters and, off a quick play-the-ball, Joseph Manu spotted space from dummy-half and raced over to score to extend the lead to 18-10.
After a bitter battle in the middle, Manu’s try put the result beyond doubt for the Roosters who had appeared less that their clinical best over the past few weeks.
It was the third-straight loss for the Warriors but a much-improved performance after last week’s 48-10 loss to Cronulla at Central Coast Stadium.
Departing Warriors winger Ken Maumalo scored the first try of the afternoon five minutes in when he ran over untouched in the left corner and it took almost 20 minutes for the Roosters to hit back.
And after some brilliant pressure from the Warriors, the premiers finally responded when a Keary bomb was cleaned up by replacement forward Sitili Tupouniua to score between the posts.
A try late in the second half for rising Warriors star Eli Kaota off a deceptive hand ball from Kodi Nikorima gave the home side the halftime lead.
The Roosters didn’t hit the lead until the 51st minute when Keary put through a grubber to score and go up by two points with half-an-hour to play.
It was the final game for Maumalo and fellow winger David Fusitu’a. They will head back to New Zealand on Sunday for the remainder of the season.
Before the game, is was announced Parramatta had loaned Daniel Alvaro and George Jennings to the Warriors for four weeks.