Sam Walker has taken just one week to make himself at home as a No.6 alongside Luke Keary, starring in the Sydney Roosters 26-12 defeat of a winless Manly.
A week after being shocked in the opening round by Newcastle, Walker and the entire Roosters’ spine made statements in a dominant 22-0 first half at the SCG on Friday.
The Tri-colours then withstood a brutal second half, in which Manly had the majority of the ball and Connor Watson (shoulder) and Sitili Tupouniua (concussion) were both forced off.
Walker, who after being the Roosters’ main playmaker last year is now playing alongside Keary in 2022, was brilliant throughout.
Where the Roosters lacked ball last week and Walker played second fiddle, the teenager found his spark again, playing with freedom.
He laid on the Roosters’ first try when he took the line on with confidence, stepping his way through before putting Drew Hutchison over.
He almost set up another when he again stepped before the line and put on a shallow chip kick, only for Jason Saab to just save the day for Manly.
On another occasion, Walker linked nicely with Keary, going to the line, finding his halfback and allowing Nat Butcher to go over for his second try.
The 19-year-old also had a key moment after the break, anticipating a Sea Eagles kick from a scrum and turning early to beat a sprinting Saab to the ball.
“They all had really good conversations during the week and knew whose role was which,” coach Trent Robinson said.
“We saw that when Sammy ran it in midfield and got tackled on one of the first sets and on the second set, he’s ended up setting up that try running again.
“That’s that subtle difference on the five-eighth compared to the organisation of the half.
“I felt like they did that well.”
James Tedesco was also brilliant after being quiet in the loss to Newcastle, sending Daniel Tupou in for a try and twice forcing line dropouts.
Siosiua Taukeiaho was also big up front with 199 metres, while Tupouniua was powerful and bagged a first-half try.
Among the premiership favourites, the Roosters went from being unable to break the line at all last week to doing it six times in the first half alone against Manly.
The Sea Eagles, though, have issues, again having just 35 per cent of the ball in the first half as their middle also struggled to regain any ascendancy.
Tom Trbojevic was again quiet as the Roosters constantly piled numbers on him in defence, while more stoppages in the game this year appear to be limiting his impact on tired defenders.
The fullback bombed the Sea Eagles’ best chance of the first half when he dropped a Cherry-Evans grubber under the post.
Their first try arrived through Karl Lawton out of dummy-half, while Cherry-Evans bagged one late off the back of kicks from Kieran Foran and Reuben Garrick.
“We knew they were going to come out of the blocks and we didn’t match that,” coach Des Hasler said.
“We have got to manufacture that start better and that way you can do something about the momentum with the ball.”