The bookies couldn’t see past a Roosters win as a decent crowd in the Sydney Cricket Ground anticipated the season opener against the Manly Sea Eagles.
The Roosters are amongst the four favourites to win the Grand Final come the end of the season, but they know that 2021 is likely to be a highly competitive season which will require true contenders to be out of the blocks from the first whistle.
The Sea Eagles were without talisman Tom Trbojevic for the season opener after ‘Tommy Turbo’ picked up a hamstring injury in pre-season, his full-back berth being taken by usual stand-off Dylan Walker despite him being under a disciplinary cloud after a pizza shop fracas.
James Tedesco got the Roosters season underway with less than three minutes on the clock when he spun out of a weak tackle from Reuben Garrick after taking a Luke Keary high kick to the corner. Siosiua Taukeiaho missed the conversion attempt but it was the perfect start for Sydney.
Manly answered on nine minutes with Garrick taking a fast pass from Jack Gosiewski to go in down the blind side, close to the left touchline, for a four pointer. Garrick was unable to add a difficult conversion, but the signs were good for an open game.
Luke Keary was the provider for the second Roosters try, this time with a pass as he put Sitili Tupouniua through a gap to use his strength to get over the line and ground. This time Taukeiaho hit the mark with his conversion for a 10-4 lead.
On twenty-five Tedesco stepped off both feet through a mesmerised Sea Eagles defence to get the ball on the ground for his second of the half. Taukeiaho smacked his conversion kick between the uprights for 16-4.
A sensational solo try from Brett Morris, turning the Manly defence inside out down the right wing as he beat four tacklers, saw the winger over in the corner for the fourth Sydney try. Adam Keighran, on from the subs bench, took over the kicking but was wide of the mark.
With seconds of the half remaining Brett Morris stepped out of a tackle and then stretched for the line to score one-handed as the Manly defence collapsed again under Roosters pressure. Keighran drifted his conversion between the uprights to give the home side a 26-4 lead at the interval, the Roosters in devastating form.
Manly weathered the storm until the fifty-third minute when Tedesco picked up his hat-trick try, again down the right side as he took a pass in an acre of space for a simple walk in try. Tedesco took the conversion, his first kick in NRL, and splayed the ball wide of the right upright.
An eighty-metre interception try from Brett Morris brought up the second hat-trick of the game, the free scoring winger accelerating away from his own twenty to make it over the Manly line without a tackler getting within touching distance. Tedesco had another shot at goal and got closer than his first effort as he pulled it across the face of the sticks.
Ten out from the end Angus Crichton scored the eighth Rooster try of the night as he crashed between two Manly tacklers to score a short-range, forwards try, touching down by the left upright and giving Taukeiaho a simple conversion to bring up the forty.
The ninth came with ninety seconds remaining on the clock as Josh Morris ripped through an exhausted Sea Eagles defence to score from forty metres out to put the icing on the cake. Taukeiaho added the conversion to complete a 46-4 demolition.
Manly were never allowed to get up to game speed as the Sydney Roosters were devastating in ripping them apart down the wings. This was the biggest ever round one win in their history and the largest losing margin in a round one game for Manly. All signs are that this could be a great season for the Roosters.
Sydney Roosters: Tedesco (3T), Tupou, Morris J (T), Manu, Morris B (3T), Lam, Keary, Collins, Friend, Taukeiaho (4G), Crichton (T), Tupouniua (T), Liu. Subs: Keighran (G), Warea-Hargreaves, Butcher, Suluka-Fifita.
Manly Sea Eagles: Walker, Saab, Parker, Suli, Garrick (T), Foran, Cherry-Evans, Aloiai, Croker, Taupau, Gosiewski, Sironen, Trbojevic. Subs: Funa, Davey, Boyle, Paseka.
Referee: Chris Sutton.