It has always had the characteristics of a match made in heaven and the combination clicked into gear perfectly on Friday night to ruthlessly put Cronulla to the sword 28-10.
With an aerial target like Blake Ferguson and a lethal sweep runner like James Tedesco to throw into the mix, the blueprint for a premiership contender was finally rolled out by Trent Robinson’s men.
MATCH CENTRE: Sharks v Roosters
That’s not to say they’re the finished article, far from it. But the ease with which they were able to pull apart a tough defensive side like the Sharks out of shape with Cronk’s kicks and Keary’s ability to get outside his man two passes wide of the ruck showed they’ll be a handful for anyone when they’re on.
Perhaps the best example of the Roosters’ threat with ball in hand was a try to Tedesco oin the 51st minute.
With the Sharks’ defensive line back oin its heels, the ball was spread quickly wide to the right, with long passes from Jake Friend and then Cronk arriving with a charging Keary, who straightened as Cronulla’s left edge slid sideways, before shifting it on to his fullback.
Poor old Trent Hodkinson didn’t have a chance as Tedesco stepped off his right foot and straightened into a big hole.
The Latrell Mitchell conversion gave the Roosters an 18-point lead with less than half an hour ago and from that point on they were in cruise control.
While Keary was the creative dynamo on the edges, Cronk was the architect of the earlier onslaught with the two-time Dally M Medal winner finishing sets with inch perfect kicks to put the Sharks on the back foot.
Then, when the time was right to put the squeeze on, Ferguson put his hand up on the right wing and Cronk’s kicks on top of Sharks winger Sosaia Feki’s head gave the towering Origin rep a better than even money chance.
Twice in the first half Ferguson’s aerial work ended in tries to his inside man Ryan Matterson, first in the 21st minute when the kick went to ground and the ball landed in his path, and second on the stroke of half-time when Ferguson rose above Feki to catch the ball before lobbing a beautiful pass back to his centre who went over untouched.
While Cronulla had their moments and twice threatened to mount comebacks when Valentine Holmes scored in the corner, the Roosters halves always gave off a sense of control and ultimately they had too much class.
Sydney Roosters’ forwards have dominated Cronulla’s representative pack to lay the platform for a 28-10 NRL victory on Friday night.
Comprehensively beaten by the Warriors big men last week, the Tri-colours bounced back to nullify the impact of the Sharks’ forwards at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary kicked twice for tries, leaving a James Tedesco show-and-go in the second-half as the only try that didn’t come off the boot.
But the stars of the night were the Roosters’ pack, who gave Cronk and halves partner Keary the field position to be at their clinical best.
Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Boyd Cordner both topped 145m, nullifying the output of Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita who rallied late.
After Cronk got the Roosters moving with a kick for Ryan Matterson in the 20th minute to score, he landed the knockout blow before the break when he again booted the ball across field for the second-rower.
Keary also contributed with a grubber for Joesph Manu midway through the opening half, setting up the 18-6 half-time lead before Tedesco crossed after the break.
The five-eighth then finished the job with another perfectly placed for winger Reece Robinson on full-time.
Cronulla’s loss was soured by a serious head knock to bench hooker James Segeyaro after he collided with Cronk’s knee while trying to charge down a kick.
Matt Moylan was easily the Sharks’ best in the first half after he was shifted to fullback for the injured Josh Dugan, while Valentine Holmes crossed twice on the right wing.
Moylan is the third fullback the Sharks have used in five matches. He set up three line breaks and had one of his own before the break, and also threw a cut-out ball for Holmes’ first try.
- with AAP