The Sydney Roosters have enjoyed another big win over the Knights sparked by 18-year-old halfback Sam Walker, but the game ended in tears for the side as Brett Morris and Lindsay Collins suffered nasty knee injuries.
Earlier, Penrith continued on their merry way, beating Manly 28-16 for their eighth successive win to start the season, and Parramatta comfortably handled the Bulldogs 32-10.
But it was the brilliance of wunderkind Walker that stole the show in the Roosters’ 38-4 victory over the Newcastle Knights.
Despite 18-year-old Walker’s superb five try assists and one try in the 38-4 win over the Knights, the Roosters looked miserable after the game as evergreen winger Morris and star prop Collins both suffered their potentially season-ending injuries in the final seven minutes.
Josh Morris finished another hat-trick to ice the victory as his twin brother was being helped off the field, joining a long casualty list in Bondi.
Regular captain Boyd Cordner has missed the start of the season due to repeated concussion issues, co-captain Jake Friend retired mid-season for the same reason, star half Luke Keary’s season was ended by a torn ACL, and replacement skipper James Tedesco missed Saturday’s game after a head knock.
That left Brett Morris to take over the captaincy for the first time, but it was the youngest player on the park who led the way, having a hand or foot in all seven of the Roosters’ tries on the night.
In just his fifth NRL game, Walker had a hand in almost all of the Roosters’ seven tries, starting with a superb long ball, that is quickly becoming his trademark, to Daniel Tupou in the sixth minute.
He created Josh Morris’s first try not long after that, and a left foot chip sent Angus Crichton over in the 15th minute.
A Walker bomb created the next try-scoring chance for winger Matt Ikuvalu, who returned the favour by throwing the last pass for Walker to touch down for the Roosters’ first after half-time.
The skilled Queensland halfback followed up a Victor Radley line break with a neat cross-field chip to Josh Morris in the 63rd minute and, minutes after Collins and Brett Morris went down with their ugly injuries, the right-footer lifted the spirits of Roosters fans with another leftie chip for Josh to complete his hat-trick.
Walker was only called up to the starting side after Keary’s knee injury, but he has immediately established himself as one of the most important members of the team.
With the injuries piling up, the Roosters may be forced to blood their other superstar teenager, Joseph Suaalii, in the outside backs, although fullback Tedesco is not expected to be out for an extended stretch.
Panthers roll on despite impressive Sea Eagles display
Manly continued its impressive form with Tom Trbojevic back in the fold, but it was no match for the unstoppable Panthers, who held off the Sea Eagles to win 28-16.
It is Penrith’s eighth straight win to start the season and came in the face of another impressive performance from Trbojevic, who notched a team-high 191 run metres on Saturday.
Manly’s three tries — two of which involved their star fullback — were the most the Panthers have conceded this season.
But, led once again by star halfback Nathan Cleary and in-form winger Brian To’o, Penrith answered each Manly surge to keep their winning streak intact.
Not since Melbourne in 2012 has an NRL side opened their campaign unbeaten after eight weeks. The Storm, who defeated Penrith in last year’s grand final, went on to lift the trophy that year.
Down 16-6 at half-time, the Sea Eagles drew within four when Daly Cherry-Evans fielded his own grubber that hit the post and cannoned off a chasing Trbojevic.
But Penrith answered through Tyrone May in the 57th minute.
Manly set up a grandstand finish when winger Jason Saab burned Dylan Edwards down the sideline on a 60-metre run, only for Liam Martin to acrobatically tap back a grubber over the deadball line for Stephen Crichton to seal another Panthers victory.
The only sour point for Penrith was the citing of centre Matt Burton, who was reported for high contact on Martin Taupau late in the contest.
Bulldogs back to their losing ways as Eels run riot
Clint Gutherson has showed again he is the number one man Parramatta want him to be, starring in their 32-10 NRL win over Canterbury.
In a clinical performance, the Eels led from the outset and quickly put paid to any hopes of a Bulldogs comeback early in the second half after two straight tries.
It took them to 7-1 for just the fifth time in their history, with the Eels now second on the table and behind only Western Sydney rival Penrith at the top.
The only issue came in the form of a hip injury to Nathan Brown, who is set for scans with the Eels hopeful he may only miss a few weeks.
But as ever, the main man was Gutherson.
After being involved in four tries last week against Brisbane, the Eels captain again looked at ease against the Bulldogs.
He claimed the game’s first when he loomed in support play after a Mahoney bust from dummy half, before breaking through the Bulldogs’ paper-thin defence shortly after.
That made it 16-0 after 21 minutes, and by then the game was a good as done.
By the night’s end, he had busted nine tackles and ran more than 200 metres before earning an early shower from coach Brad Arthur.
The fullback was not alone in starring for the Eels at Stadium Australia.
Canterbury were the only side winger Maika Sivo had not scored against in his 53-game career before Saturday night.
By fulltime, he had a double against them.
The first was a powerful effort from an Oregon Kaufusi offload, while his second after the break came off the back of Gutherson’s quick hands via a tap on.
Bryce Cartwright also looked good, following on his promising night against the Broncos with a bat-back for a Shaun Lane try and nice ball for Marata Niukore to cross.