Walker leads Roosters’ 60-18 thrashing of Dragons

George Clarke |

Sam Walker scores a try for the Roosters who hammered St George Illawarra in the Anzac Day clash.
Sam Walker scores a try for the Roosters who hammered St George Illawarra in the Anzac Day clash.

A rejuvenated Sam Walker has ignited the Sydney Roosters’ NRL season by masterminding a confidence-crushing 60-18 defeat of St George Illawarra. 

Twelve months after being dropped from the traditional Anzac Day game, Walker outgunned Ben Hunt in a one-sided victory for the Roosters in front of 40,727 fans at Allianz Stadium on Thursday. 

The performance caps an encouraging turnaround for Walker, whose 2023 season was a near write-off after picking up a knee injury while being demoted to reserve grade.

The diminutive halfback, who missed the past fortnight due to concussion, set up three tries, scored one himself and kicked 10 of 10 from the tee for a 24-point haul.

“It was great to watch him,” said Roosters coach Trent Robinson.

“Sam does that to us every day that we train … he’ll pull you apart. It was great to see him do that, plus the goalkicking, it’s such a key part.

“He sees the game slightly differently, and the NRL demands you adhere to some rules, but it also gives you freedom.

“A lot of guys don’t (embrace that freedom), but Sam is out of the box when it comes to seeing where defensive lines are and players are moving for you … he can really tear you apart.” 

Luke Keary
Luke Keary scores a try for the Roosters during their Anzac Day thumping of the Dragons. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Walker’s ruthlessness, in what was the Roosters’ most fluent attacking performance of a hitherto erratic campaign, condemned Shane Flanagan’s Dragons to the worst result of his short tenure.

Flanagan’s side became the first team this season to have 50 points put on them, and he was frustrated at how easily Walker and five-eighth Luke Keary could combine.

“Their two halves played in dinner suits,” Flanagan quipped.  

Things couldn’t have got off to a worse start for the Dragons when Moses Suli was knocked out while defending Jared Waerea-Hargreaves on the opening kick-off return. 

Jaydn Su’A finished a flowing move after six minutes to give the Red V an early lead, but for the rest of the match it was nearly all one-way traffic.

Dominic Young
Dominic Young scores a try as the Roosters cruise to a 60-18 Anzac Day victory over the Dragons. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Dominic Young registered a trademark finish in the corner, and an errant offload from Zac Lomax found its way to Angus Crichton, who muscled his way over the line.

Walker then began to insert himself into the game more, the slight Roosters playmaker coming into play after Nat Butcher made a burst up the middle of the field.

While Dragons fullback Tyrell Sloan was racing to get back in position, a quick-thinking Walker chipped ahead for Joey Manu to gather and touch down. 

Walker repeated the trick play a few minutes later and was awarded a penalty try after Fa’amanu Brown was deemed to have pulled him back as he attempted to dive on the ball. 

Butcher extended the Roosters’ lead just before halftime to give Robinson’s men a 30-6 lead at the break. 

Jack de Belin was able to nab one back early in the second half, but after Walker put Keary through a hole the Roosters enjoyed a procession to the 60-point mark. 

Manu and Butcher brought up their doubles, while James Tedesco and Joseph Suaalii piled more misery on the Dragons. 

“We’re terribly disappointed, that’s not the Dragons,” Flanagan said. 

“You saw what we could do last week, but today we hit the ground with a big thud.

“The challenge this group has got is to grow and learn from this … we were poor, no excuses.”  

AAP