Teenager Sam Walker starred in his highly anticipated NRL debut as the Sydney Roosters passed their first test without Luke Keary with a 32-12 win over the Warriors.
In the earlier game on Easter Sunday, the Dragons downed the Knights, as Newcastle’s injury toll added some high-profile names.
In his first game since being labelled the Roosters’ replacement for retired star Cooper Cronk, Walker set up a try and looked composed in the win.
James Tedesco also stood up at the back in just the club’s third game without Keary or Cronk since the start of 2017, shrugging off questions on how Keary’s absence would impact him.
Brett Morris bagged a double, including a crucial one at the start of the second half after shaking off a cork in his calf.
But all eyes were still on Walker after Keary’s ACL injury ruled him out for the season last week and Lachlan Lam’s knee injury also saw Drew Hutchison promoted to the halves.
Playing as the Roosters’ youngest half-back since Pearce in 2007, Walker had four line-break assists and kicked well close to the line.
The 18-year-old set up his first try when he went across field and put Nat Butcher through a hole after back-to-back six-again calls.
He also had a role in another when he again attacked the right and combined with Joey Manu to put Brett Morris over for his first.
On another play the half-back threw cut-out balls to both sides of the field, showing the talent that drove the Roosters to bring him down from Brisbane at age 16.
Hutchison also ran nicely at five-eighth and scored off a Roger Tuivasa-Sheck error, as the Roosters played without Keary, Lachlan Lam, Jake Friend, Boyd Corder and Sam Verrils.
Tedesco finished with 222 metres, including 40 from when he shrugged aside Wayde Egan and sliced through the midfield to score his team’s first.
But it still wasn’t a perfect night for the Roosters.
Sitili Tupouniua suffered a heavy concussion after being collected by Eliesa Katoa’s elbow while making a tackle, and did not return.
The Warriors also had concerns, with an Addin Fonua-Blake knee blow putting him in doubt for Friday’s clash with former club Manly.
Despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise, the Warriors still had their chances.
Nathan Brown’s men led 6-0 through an Adam Pompey try, and were up 12-4 when Tohu Harris chased through on a Tuivasa-Sheck grubber kick.
But they were left to rue a crucial period at the start of the second half when they squandered 25 tackles on the Roosters’ line before a Bayley Sironen error.
From the next set Sironen gave away a six-again ruck infringement and the Roosters marched down field for Morris to barge over and give his team control.
Dragons win, Knights lose Pearce
Newcastle’s injury troubles have reached catastrophic levels with star half-back Mitchell Pearce suffering a suspected pectoral muscle injury in their bruising 22-13 NRL loss to St George Illawarra.
The 301-game veteran was taken off 25 minutes into Sunday’s home game in Newcastle clutching at his upper left chest and was soon joined on the bench by Kurt Mann (concussion) and Tex Hoy (hamstring).
Test prop David Klemmer played on with a painful knee injury suffered midway through the second half as the Knights finished the final 20 minutes with one man on the bench.
There are fears Pearce has suffered a ruptured left pec which would require surgery and rule him out for around three months, however if scans indicate a tear only his time out would be significantly shortened.
It comes almost three years after Pearce suffered a ruptured right pec which ruled him out for 10 weeks.
Sunday’s incident happened innocuously with the Knights leading 6-0 when Pearce threw his arm out in an attempt to tackle Dragons second-rower Tariq Sims but only his hand connected.
Full-back Hoy didn’t return in the second half after suffering a hamstring injury, while there were big concerns for five-eighth Mann when he was knocked out in the 56th minute while attempting to tackle Dragons winger Mikaele Ravalawa.
The incident sparked a melee when Ravalawa was seen celebrating as Mann was prone and Knights forward Jacob Saifiti was put on report for sparking the all-in with his reaction.
At the time, the Knights held a narrow 13-12 lead but their lengthening injury list got the better of them as the Dragons ran in tries to Tariq Sims from a charge down and Brayden Wiliame to polish off the win.
The Knights already have a lengthy injured list, missing star full-back Kalyn Ponga, who is expected to be close to a return in round five, as well as second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon, centre Bradman Best and winger Edrick Lee.
After playing on through injury, Klemmer is in doubt to play Gold Coast next week after being placed on report twice in the first half — once for striking Blake Lawrie with his elbow in a scrum and again for a late hit on Corey Norman.
But while the Knights fell apart amid their injuries after holding a 7-6 lead at halftime, the Dragons were impressive in toughing out the win without stars Ben Hunt and Jack Bird
Sims landed a try double for his efforts, one from his second charge down and another off a sweet ball from replacement half-back Adam Clune close to the line.
Anthony Griffin’s Dragons have now won three games in a row and are set to face the unbeaten Eels at Western Sydney Stadium next Sunday.