Cronk stars as rampant Roosters thump Knights

Cooper Cronk was outstanding for his new team against the Knights.

Cooper Cronk was outstanding for his new team against the Knights. Photo: AAP

Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk starred for the Sydney Roosters as the premiership favourites thumped the Newcastle Knights 38-8 to make a statement in the NRL on Sunday evening.

The off-season acquisitions of Cronk and fullback James Tedesco had many bullish about the Roosters’ title claims but a Round 1 defeat to the Wests Tigers tempered some of that early hope.

After a strong victory against the Bulldogs last week, they backed it up with a big win against the previously undefeated Knights at Allianz Stadium.

This triumph was set up by two tries in the six minutes before half-time, after the Roosters’ early advantage, partly established by Cronk, was pegged back by a clever Mitchell Pearce kick that ended in an Aidan Guerra try.

That effort, set up and scored by two ex-Roosters, reduced the lead to 12-8, but tries just before the break to Keary and Victor Radley would prove crucial.

A Blake Ferguson double in the second half, and a try for Cronk, sealed a strong win for Trent Robinson’s side.

Earlier on Sunday, St George Illawarra fullback Matt Dufty scored three tries as his Dragons side thrashed the Gold Coast Titans 54-8 to remain one of just two sides undefeated after three rounds.

The Titans’ performance was so bad – they conceded nine tries and finished with a staggering 45 missed tackles – coach Garth Brennan acknowledged there was “a trust issue” in his side’s defensive line.

“You’ve got to be on and defensively we weren’t … the guys in the dressing shed are feeling it,” he said afterwards.

“We are a young football side and people have got to understand that we’ve got some new combinations where the guys haven’t played together in the past.

“There is probably a bit of a trust issue there from our guys on the inside and our guys on the edge and that will come in time.”

Gareth Widdop scores a try

Gareth Widdop scored one of the Dragons’ nine tries in their thumping win over the Titans. Photo: AAP

The Dragons are on top of the ladder, with the New Zealand Warriors in second place on three wins after a thrilling 20-19 success against the Canberra Raiders on Saturday afternoon.

Trailing 19-6 with just 13 minutes to go, two converted tries to Tohu Harris and Isaac Luke brought the Warriors within one point.

And a pair of Shaun Johnson field goals, in the 78th and 79th minutes, stunned the Raiders as the playmaker delivered under serious pressure.

Meanwhile, Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary suffered a knee injury during his side’s 20-18 loss to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on Friday evening.

Cleary started the season in such good form he was talked about as a potential State of Origin representative, but he is expected to be sidelined for around 10 weeks.

Jarryd Hayne also suffered an injury over the weekend, forced off the field with a hip problem as the Cronulla Sharks beat his Parramatta Eels 14-4 in a scrappy match on Saturday.

There was major controversy at Campbelltown Stadium on Friday, when a questionable late penalty was given to the Brisbane Broncos in golden point.

Jamayne Isaako needed no second invitation, kicking truly to give the Broncos a 9-7 win over the Wests Tigers.

Brisbane Broncos

The Brisbane Broncos couldn’t get over the tryline, but Jamayne Isaako’s kicking got them home over the Tigers. Photo: AAP

The penalty was awarded after Tigers backrower Robbie Rochow was, in the eyes of officials, not square at marker while he tried to charge down a late field goal attempt.

“It’s hard [to accept]. Very hard. It’s one thing to give penalties in golden point, which historically just don’t [happen],” a perplexed Tigers coach Ivan Cleary said.

“And the other one is was it a penalty? I actually don’t think it was.”

Elsewhere in Round 3, Michael Jennings bagged a hat-trick as the South Sydney beat Manly 34-6 and in the grand final rematch, the Melbourne Storm proved too strong for North Queensland 30-14.

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