Roosters run riot in JWH’s milestone match as tough question looms for Warriors over Johnson’s future


Whenever a player lines up for a major milestone match, especially a prop in their 300th appearance, the big question is whether they will get a chance for a celebratory kick at goal. 

It was obvious within minutes at Allianz Stadium on Sunday that the margin was always going to be a big one, opening the door for Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to dust off his well-concealed kicking skills. 

The Roosters embarrassed the Warriors to race out to a 22-0 lead inside the first 12 minutes with Dominic Young and Angus Crichton trading tries in a breathtaking attacking blitz.

It is never a good sign for an opposition team playing the Roosters when the commentators start trotting out stats referencing 1935 and that team’s Immortal, prolific point-scorer Dave Brown, but despite the hot start, the final 38-18 scoreline did not end up threatening the club’s 80-point high watermark from 89 years ago.

From there it was a case of the Warriors trying to stem the bleeding to avoid a total annihilation as they slumped to their fourth straight defeat.

Waerea-Hargreaves didn’t end up getting his ceremonial shot at goal but perhaps more fittingly he was placed on report for a late shot on Kiwi teammate Tohu Harris in the closing stages.

Crichton a certainty for Blues

With Cameron Murray out of the first two Origin matches, Angus Crichton’s recent form revival couldn’t have come at a better time. 

And with very few star players on the open market for 2025, Crichton is set to cash in as well with South Sydney, St George Illawarra and Penrith clamouring for his services following the Roosters’ recruitment of David Fifita.

After rampaging down the left edge in the previous round’s win over Brisbane, the 28-year-old second-rower was at it again from the get-go against the Warriors. 

He won the race to a grubber to touch down in the sixth minute and backed up a Lindsay Collins bust in the 12th to complete the Roosters’ opening four-try blitz which knocked the stuffing out of the Warriors.

“I don’t think he’s ever played better than this. The month of form that he’s shown has him a definite starter in the NSW team,” Greg Alexander said on Fox League at half-time but unfortunately for Crichton, the Panthers legend is no longer a selector.

Crichton did have one moment to regret when he stuck a leg out to trip Dallin Watene-Zelezniak midway through the second half and could have a case to answer at the judiciary.

Roosters making it happen in broken play.

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Manu-Young the best edge combo in the NRL

It’s hard to go past Joey Manu and Dominic Young as the most potent one-two punch out wide in the NRL. 

Manu’s sublime skills at creating attack on the spot are unrivalled and Young’s finishing ability on the wing is good enough as it is, let alone when he’s served up space on a silver platter by his centre.

It took just three minutes for Manu to stand up Adam Pompey, draw in Edward Kosi and flick the Steeden for Young to waltz over the stripe.

On the next set from the restart they combined again with Manu repeating the dose for Young to sprint into a gap in the lead-up to Crichton’s first try.

Then it was time for a scrum play on the 20-metre line with Sam Walker getting in on the action to sweep around as Manu angled inward to give Young another four-pointer for his growing tally.

“I like the confidence with how we’re playing so I really want to hold onto that but I want some hardness to get into the game that we should have had there,” Trent Robinson said when comparing the hot start with conceding three later tries.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s hamstring mishap at training on Thursday, which will put him out for anywhere between 2-6 weeks according to Webster, triggered a backline reshuffle at the Warriors with Marcelo Montoya dropped for Kosi and Pompey to form a new left edge.

When you’re coming up against Manu and Young, it is no time for experimental combinations.

“We didn’t handle that period at all. They absolutely destroyed us and we couldn’t resist what they were throwing at us. We made it hard on ourselves. We need to defend better,” Warriors coach Andrew Webster lamented.

“They were a different beast today, the Roosters.”

The Roosters had the luxury of resting Waerea-Hargreaves so he could bring up the triple century on home turf and also add Daniel Tupou and Victor Radley to the team that had vanquished the Broncos in Brisbane a week earlier.

Well… that didn’t take long.

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Brandon Smith was a no-show due to his calf strain but they barely missed a beat with Connor Watson living up to his Mr Fix-It reputation by slotting in at hooker.

Theuy scored the try of the game and a contender for the best one of the season early in the second half when Sam Walker latched onto a loose ball to send Young sprinting nearly the length of the field but he was cut down by Watene-Zelezniak despite the wind resistance created by his flowing mullet.

With the defence scrambling to get back, Walker hoofed the ball 50 metres across-field from dummy-half to hit Tupou on the chest with only four red white and blue jerseys of the Roosters kind anywhere near him.

Manu even bobbed up on the other side of the field to send his fellow centre Joseph Suaalii into the backfield for a James Tedesco try in the 55th minute as the hosts romped to a 32-6 advantage.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Addin Fonua-Blake registered late four-pointers but the hyphenated duo’s efforts was more than a dash too late to cause any concern for the Roosters.

Suaalii was placed on report for a high shot on DWZ which could be a problem but it looked like the Warriors veteran fell into the contact which was heavy but not malicious.

They are now up to 6-4 after a slow start to the season and are rising up the ladder into the top six heading into next Saturday’s Magic Round blockbuster against the in-form Sharks.

Tough questions loom over Johnson 

Shaun Johnson’s career resurgence last year was one of the feelgood stories of 2023.

He was unlucky to miss out on the Dally M Medal when pipped at the post by a player who grew up copying his moves in Knights star Kalyn Ponga.

Unfortunately for the veteran halfback, his career has been a pattern of hot-and-cold seasons and this year has been marked by underwhelming form.  

He was well below his best on Sunday at Allianz Stadium and a pectoral problem added injury to insult as he soldiered on as his side copped a pounding.

Dominic Young is tackled. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Crichton targeted him in defence on several occasions and while Johnson never shirked his duties, he was clearly a marked man. 

Luke Keary appeared to cop a “chicken wing” tackle from a little Rooster when Luke Keary bent his arm back in a tackle in the 25th minute but despite the Bunker reviewing several angles of the incident, no penalty was awarded.

Surprisingly, coach Andrew Webster kept him on the field even as the margin blew out to 26 early in the second half and Johnson managed to send Kosi over to get the visitors on the scoreboard but he was little more than a passenger for much of the match before he was finally benched 12 minutes from full-time.

“He battled on. At half-time it was a tough conversation, he wanted to go on and said I want to go and fight,” Webster said. “I’m really proud of him the way he wanted to do that. How long or if he’s out at all, I don’t know.”

Back-up playmakers Chanel Harris-Tavita (calf) and Luke Metcalf (broken leg) are already in the casualty ward so if Johnson’s pec injury forces him to miss time, Webster has few options and may need to play Freddy Lussick or Dylan Walker in the halves alongside Te Maire Martin. Harris-Tavita is a slight chance to return next Sunday against the Panthers but is more likely the following round, according to Webster.

Johnson was close to being forced into retirement a couple of years ago, then courted by rival teams last season when he bounced back to his best but only on a year-to-year contract basis at the Warriors. 

He recently said that James Fisher-Harris’ arrival next season might convince him to go around another year but given that he will be turning 34 in September, his 14th season in the NRL could be his last whether he wants to remain at the Warriors or not.

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