Walker steals show as Roosters get over Eels in Magic Round thriller

Sam Walker has prevailed in the battle of the halfbacks, scoring a spectacular individual try and kicking superbly to lead the Roosters to a 31-24 win over Parramatta in the showpiece Sunday afternoon clash at Magic Round.

Walker was matched every step of the way by Mitchell Moses, who also scored an excellent solo effort and created several others for his side.

In the end, Parramatta were unable to make the most of their field position and possession advantages, with the Roosters goalline defence, which has been questioned at times this season, returning to its former glories to secure the win.

Walker will get the headlines with his show-stealing performance from halfback, but Joseph Suaalii enjoyed coming out party on the wing, having perhaps his best game in top grade to score twice and running for nearly 150m.

The old guard were at it too: in particular Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiha Taukieaho through the middle, set the tone with a dominant showing in the middle.

Parramatta might be disappointed that they didn’t get the result in the end. They did all the things that usually result in a win – completing high, kicking long and winning the possession battle – but perhaps failed to find the incisiveness that they have had on other occasions this year.

Brad Arthur might also feel like scoring 24 points against the Roosters and not winning will tell its own tale of where their weakness was to be found.

The Roosters started promisingly. They might well have got over through Paul Momirovski, but for a superb Clint Gutherson tackle. It wouldn’t matter: Jared Wearea-Hargreaves was able to step, dummy and overcome an attempted tackle from Reed Mahoney to open the scoring.

The big men tries would keep coming, Mitchell Moses split the line straight up the middle and send Isiah Papali’I under the posts to strike straight back.

Any pretence of a grind, however, was swiftly abandoned. Gutherson made an uncharacteristic error from a kick to prove James Tedesco with a try, before Tom Opacic held back the Roosters fullback to earn himself ten minuties in the bin.

Sam Walker didn’t waste the advantage. He took the penalty goal before producing a classic chip and chase for himself to extend the lead out to 20-6.

Parra weren’t out of it. They piled on pressure, ending the half with 58% of the territory and 28 tackles within the Roosters’ 20m area, but couldn’t get over the stripe. Bailey Simonssen came closest, but his attempt was pulled back for a double movement.

The half ended with two drops: Moses, in good ball on the last tackle, fluffed his lines and up the other end, Walker underlined his own personal performance with a field goal to take the score to 21-6.

It was all going so well for the Chooks. Even when they missed, as a Joey Manu flick pass in the direction of Sitili Tupouniua did, the ball dribbled through untouched for Joseph Suaalii to score.

The fightback came, and it was all inspired by Mitchell Moses. First, the halfback put Papali’I through a gap to hit back, then he came up with a momentous individual effort to make it yet closer.

The halfback kicked along the floor for himself, hacked on around James Tedesco and touched down for one of the best individual tries of the year.

Moses rode his hot hand into a captain’s challenge, too, overturning a knock on call and giving his team field position from which Ryan Matterson could score under the posts.

The Roosters needed to fire up again, and once again, it was Suaalii. Luke Keary’s kick was exactly where it needed to be, but the manner in which the winger dominated Hayze Perham in the air was spectacular.

The Chooks kept up the pressure and moved out to beyond a converted try with a Sam Walker penalty goal.

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