The Sydney Roosters have proven there is light at the end of a dark off-season, blowing away St Helens to open the World Club Series and remind NRL rivals they’re still genuine premiership contenders.
Following summer of high-profile departures, lengthy injuries and Mitchell Pearce’s Australia Day incident, there was a belief the Roosters’ golden period under Trent Robinson had come to an end.
They were dispelled in a superb performance in which many of the question marks surrounding the team were turned into exclamation points en route to a 38-12 victory in front of 14,008 fans at Langtree Park on Friday.
In the absence of key forwards Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (knee) and Boyd Cordner (pec), young props Kane Evans and Dylan Napa stepped up to show the Roosters pack will not be stood over by anyone this season.
Evans opened the scoring in the 16th minute, muscling over from close to the line despite the presence of three defenders shortly after a fine 25m burst from Latrell Mitchell off a dropout.
Mitchell, on debut at 18, looked at home on the right edge while making several incisive runs.
Young halves Jayden Nikorima and Jackson Hastings also enjoyed a devastating first night together as they controlled the play mixing poise with flair which belied their combined experience of 19 NRL games.
Nikorima had a hand in five of the Roosters seven tries, while Hastings kicked five conversions from seven attempts.
He also laid on the final pass in a superb team try for Blake Ferguson, who excelled in his first game at fullback, while Nikorima was involved in an equally spectacular four-pointer soon after.
The 19-year-old five-eighth burst onto a short ball from Sam Moa, who had gathered a St Helens bomb deep in the Roosters half, and sprinted 40m downfield before offloading to new recruit Dale Copley to score and extend the lead to 22-0 at the break.
It wasn’t a flawless night for Ferguson, however, with the representative star spilling a tough Jon Wilkin bomb which had swirled around the posts – allowing Roosters junior Dominique Peyroux to pounce on the error and open St Helens’ account in the 42nd minute.
However the floodgates had already opened, and the Roosters regained their 22-point lead with a long-range try to Shaun Kenny-Dowall following a scything bust from Nikorima.
The pair were involved again two minutes later, with Kenny-Dowall bursting through the defence from a Nikorima pass to set up Aidan Guerra’s second try.
The Roosters were reduced to 12 men when Napa was sin-binned for a high tackle on winger Adam Swift – and the home side made the most of the numbers advantage, with Peyroux completing his double to make the score 34-12.
Daniel Tupou closed out the rout with an 85m intercept.