Alex Johnston has become South Sydney’s all-time try-scoring leader in a 26-point win over the Tigers, with plenty of time left in his career to make more history.
The Roosters closed Saturday’s games with a 36-16 win over the Sharks, with the Knights beating the Warriors 24-16 for their second win since the second round.
But Johnston was the star attraction as he took his rightful place at the top of the South Sydney stack in a 44-18 shellack of Wests Tigers.
Johnston started the game right up against Benny Wearing at 144, and over the night joined Nathan Merritt at 146 before scoring his third in a dominant second half against the Tigers.
The moment that was much more special was when it happened in a home game in the Indigenous Round, with the La Perouse junior having been a fan favorite since making his first-class debut for the club in 2014.
After making history in 1908 at a club that has plenty of it, as one of the game’s foundation teams, Johnston has a shot at breaking Ken Irvine’s overall try-scoring record.
The winger is still only 27 years old and follows Irvine (171) by just 24 tries.
With 147 out of 178 games, Johnston would only need two more seasons at this rate to overtake the Irvine, whose name graces the medal awarded each season to the game’s leading scorer.
Johnston has climbed that ladder three times in his career, including his rookie year and the past two seasons, and his efforts on Saturday night gave him every chance to top the rankings for the fourth time.
It started slowly for last year’s big finalists, with Asu Kepaoa and Ken Maumalo crossing over to the Tigers in the opening 10 minutes.
Johnston and substitute Siliva Havili hit back, but Maumalo crossed over a second just before half time to give the 15th-seeded Tigers a surprising 18-12 lead at halftime.
Johnston scored first in the second half and it started an avalanche, with six unanswered attempts in half an hour to tear the game away from the Tigers.
Roosters finish strong to meet the challenge of Sharks
NSW State of Origin captain James Tedesco has hit peak form on the eve of this year’s series as he helped the Sydney Roosters withstand a backlash from Cronulla in a 36-16 NRL win.
Tedesco led the charge as Cronulla’s five-game winning streak at Shark Park came to an end.
Tedesco was at the heart of everything that went well for the Roosters and his performance will help Blues coach Brad Fittler, who is already without Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell.
He finished the game with 205 running yards, seven tackle busts, two try assists and one own try.
It helped the Roosters that the Sharks were way below par and, in a worrying sign for coach Craig Fitzgibbon, only scored in the 56th minute, already trailing 24-0.
Daniel Tupou gave the Roosters the lead with a double in the first 20 minutes.
A blistering break from halfback Luke Keary was backed by Tedesco, who popped a flick pass out the back to send back rower Nat Butcher into the corner.
Tupou became supplier when he set up Tedesco on the inside, with the fullback finishing calmly to give the Roosters a 20-0 lead at halftime.
Veteran prop Jared Warea-Hargreaves pushed the Roosters further forward when he crashed after another sharp Tedesco break and an attack from Angus Crichton.
Wingers Ronaldo Mulitalo and Sione Katoa tried to bounce back sharply for the Sharks, and when Cameron McInnes crossed over to narrow the Roosters’ lead to 24-16 with 10 minutes left, there was hope from the home fans that they could make the comeback complete.
Rooster center Joey Manu paid for that as he capped off the win with a late runaway before Connor Watson dug in to work their way into their advantage.
Knights edge Warriors in the trash
Anthony Milford provided the finishing touch as Newcastle recovered from a 12-point deficit to beat the Warriors 24-16 in a Redcliffe plot.
In just his second game at his new NRL club, former Bronco Milford mounted the match-sealing attempt for the Knights on Saturday, their comeback win made it four straight losses to the Warriors, leaving both sides with 4-8 records.
Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga made two attempts as he pushed for the Queensland State of Origin, although team-mate Daniel Saifiti’s unlikely attempt to keep his Blues jersey never got off the ground.
The negative pressure plug was hampered by a suspected injury to the medial ligaments in his right knee, which left him with only one run for seven meters in the first half.
The Warriors seemed undisturbed by another week of disruptions from Matt Lodge’s curious exit, who came on twice in the opening eight minutes thanks to a soft Knights defense on both sides.
First, Adam Pompey got through some meager tackles before Reece Walsh’s darting run enabled Viliami Vailea to cut through for a 10-0 lead.
A penalty made it 12-0 before Newcastle found some rhythm, which helped when Walsh’s restart hit the full ball.
First, halfback Jake recalled Clifford’s eraser on the right, after the Knights probed the left, was perfectly weighted for Tyson Frizell to jump on.
Then a strong defense from partner Milford’s half created a knock-on of Jack Murchie and another chance for Knights, Ponga with quick hands to set up Edrick Lee and even the scores at halftime.
Shaun Johnson injected himself and slashed across the field in front of an unmarked Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
But they immediately gave up their six point lead, Chanel Harris-Tavita knocked on the door from the restart and Ponga once again set up center Enari Tuala.
Marcelo Montoya was then scapegoated for a high shot at a recumbent Dominic Young, while Warriors teammates Murchie and Jazz Tevaga were both sent off for HIAs after a friendly fire in a messy final 20 minutes.
In the end, Newcastle extended a two-point lead, while Milford’s delicate instep was well placed for Tuala to add a second and create an eight-point buffer with nine minutes remaining.