The Sydney Roosters have defied a Mitchell Moses-inspired Parramatta fightback, with Joseph Suaalii starring in their 31-24 NRL Magic Round win.
Victor Radley (ankle) was a casualty of the victory, which came after an Eels rally led by Moses just when the result looked secure.
Both sides have completed 10 rounds of the 2022 season with 6-4 records – the Roosters jumping to fourth on points differential as the fight for a top-four spot intensified.
The Eels, who beat ladder leaders Penrith last week, couldn’t convert their mass of possession late in the first half and lamented some leaky defence.
Sam Walker’s field goal and Suaalii’s soft try either side of halftime seemingly killed off the contest, until the Roosters’ 19-point margin was cut to seven in just three minutes.
Moses set up Isaiah Papali’i for the second time, then produced a magical soccering effort down the right wing to cross himself in a brilliant solo performance.
Ryan Matterson stepped through four tacklers to score under the posts and make it a one-point game with 20 minutes to play.
But Suaalii, who hadn’t shirked away from the dirty work in front of 40,843 fans at Suncorp Stadium, literally popped up again.
The teenager flew high to collect an AFL-like mark from Luke Keary’s bomb and score his fifth try in three games to swing the momentum.
A penalty gave the Roosters a seven-point buffer they clutched tightly through the last five minutes.
“He and Jarrod (Waerea-Hargreaves) set the tone in yardage with their carries. Suaalii sparked that, the way he carried the ball,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said of his teenage winger’s effort in a tough win.
“The toughness and class he showed in that game, for an 18-year-old, is very special.
“(As a rookie) you have to work at the really hard areas of the game, but he’s walked in and he’s dreamt about those hard areas a lot.”
Earlier, Radley’s ankle felt the weight of a tackler, the lock limping off and being scheduled for scans amid fears of a syndesmosis injury that could sideline him for at least a month.
It again scuppers his hopes of a State of Origin debut, after those ambitions were derailed last year by suspension.
And it’s also a blow for the Roosters ahead of a date with top-of-the-ladder Penrith on Saturday.
His absence wasn’t felt heavily in the first half, with Sam Walker’s kicking game at the centre of the Roosters’ carve-up.
First, a clunky grubberkick fooled Eels fullback Clint Gutherson, with James Tedesco winning the race to the ball.
His second was just as potent, collecting his own kick in behind, which exposed their numerical advantage with Tom Opacic in the sin-bin for a professional foul.
Eels coach Brad Arthur pointed to their inability to back up last week’s statement victory as the difference between them and the top sides.
“They do the same every week,” he said.
“It’s non-conditional, they go after it physically every week.”