Luke Keary has put his hand up as an early contender for buy of the NRL season after firing the Sydney Roosters to a thrilling 28-24 win over Canterbury.
Both sides incurred heavy tolls from Thursday night’s torrid encounter, with Blake Ferguson (chest) leaving the field midway through the second half, while Zane Tetevano and Will Hopoate departed soon after following a head clash.
An injured Will Hopoate is assisted from the field during the Roosters’ clash with the Bulldogs. (AAP: Paul Miller)
Similar to their season-opening win over Gold Coast, the Roosters were patchy, allowing the Bulldogs to jump out to an 8-0 lead and fight their way back into the game in the second half.
However, Keary — who has started the year in representative form — proved the difference with three try assists.
After the Bulldogs started stronger, Roosters five-eighth Keary took the game by the scruff of the neck, taking the line on and popping a late offload for Boyd Cordner to make it 8-6.
The Roosters went ahead when they decided to run it on the last and teen sensation Latrell Mitchell dabbed it into the in-goal for Daniel Tupou’s first of two tries.
Tupou bagged his double when ex-South Sydney premiership winner Keary put in an inch-perfect bomb for the Roosters’ winger who soared above Brenko Lee as the home side took a 16-8 lead into halftime.
When Shaun Kenny-Dowall batted back for Ferguson, the Roosters’ centre crossed for a try which almost mirrored Tupou’s touchdown on the other side of halftime and the Roosters were threatening to run away with the game.
The Bulldogs’ fightback began when Brett Morris muscled his way over three defenders, including Mitchell Pearce.
Ferguson failed to finish the game after leaving the field with 19 minutes to go.
And when Bulldogs skipper James Graham sent Adam Elliott through a hole, the margin was just four with 16 minutes on the clock.
Both sides were left battered and bruised and it was Keary who stood up when it counted, throwing a no-look pass to send Mitchell Aubusson through a hole for the match-winner.
When Josh Morris scored his second with three minutes remaining, it set up a grandstand finish but the Roosters held on.
The result heaps pressure on Dogs coach Des Hasler and marks the first time since 2010 that Canterbury have started the year with back-to-back losses.