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Sam Walker leads Sydney Roosters’ 60-18 thrashing of St George Illawarra

Luke Keary, Nat Butcher and Sam Walker celebrate a Sydney Roosters try  at Allianz Stadium on Thursday.

Luke Keary, Nat Butcher and Sam Walker celebrate a Sydney Roosters try at Allianz Stadium on Thursday. Photo: Getty

A rejuvenated Sam Walker has ignited 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.

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.

The Saints became the first side this season to have 50 points put on it.

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

Back-rower Tom Eisenhuth took Suli’s spot in the centres and the disruption appeared to have had little impact on the Saints, who took the lead when Jaydn Su’A finished a flowing move after six minutes.

But from there it was nearly all one-way traffic for the following 74 minutes.

Dom 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 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 moments 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 half-time to give Trent Robinson’s men a 30-6 lead at the break.

Jack de Belin nabbed one back early into the second half but after Walker put him through a hole, Luke Keary was able to slice his way through some flimsy Dragons defence to keep the Roosters in control.

From there, the Dragons’ heads dropped with Manu and Butcher adding a second apiece and James Tedesco dashing over to pass the 50-point barrier.

Joseph Suaalii then added to the Dragons’ miserable afternoon with a try four minutes from time.

-AAP

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