Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson declared Sam Walker’s decision to run 90 metres towards his own tryline to wind the clock was an example of the teenage halfback’s game management.
With the Roosters leading 22-16 and 20 seconds remaining in Saturday night’s match at Bankwest Stadium, Walker stunned Bulldogs players and team-mates by running backwards until the full-time siren sounded.
It was a tactic made famous by former Kiwi star Tony Iro while playing for Adelaide Rams against St George in 1998 – before Walker was born – and Robinson praised the 19-year-old, who earlier laid on two tries and kicked three goals.
“Sammy, he’s smart. He knows the time on the clock, and he knows all of that,” Robinson said.
“It’s a different play and I think everybody will have their opinion on it. I think it’s great learning from Sammy about knowing how to manage everything.
“It’s smart to manage the clock, but it goes against, I guess, what some purists would say ‘owning the game’. But you know, he took the risk out of the last play and finished the game off.
“He’s learning how to play all the tough parts of the game and all the smart parts of the game can back on the back of that.”
Walker bounced back from a physical hammering against Melbourne last weekend to spark the Roosters to the hard fought defeat of a brave Canterbury side.
Walker was left battered and bruised after the Storm targeted him in their 46-0 triumph, prompting calls for him to be rested. But he showed his resilience against a much improved Bulldogs outfit.
“He’s combative and he’s classy. He’s got endurance as well, so that makes him valuable to us,” Robinson said of Radley.
“He dominates quite a lot when he’s on there and he went about his business straight away.
“It’s not as if he was injured, he was obviously suspended. I thought it was really well controlled from him on both sides of the ball.”
Thumped 66-0 by Manly a week earlier, Canterbury overcame a poor start to fall just short of their first win against the Roosters for five years amid some pre-match drama. The Bulldogs make an unauthorised late change to their starting line-up in the forwards, which could lead to the club being fined by the NRL.
Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett also replaced halfback Kyle Flanagan with Lachlan Lewis and he added some much needed attacking spark.
However, Walker emerged as one of the stars of the match and he steered the Roosters home by laying on tries for second-rower forward Sitili Tupouniua and winger Matt Ikavalu.
Along with Waerea-Hargreaves, two other Roosters posted more than 200 metres – Ikavalu (205) and fullback Joey Manu (245) off 23 runs.
When Roosters rookie Billy Smith scored with his first touch of the ball at NRL level since 2019 in just the fifth minute and Tupouniua dived on a Walker grubber in the Canterbury in-goal four minutes later, another heavy Bulldogs defeat appeared likely.
However, Lewis put Canterbury back into the game when he chipped near the Roosters line and beat Manu to dive on the ball and score in the 18th minute.
Manu, who was playing No.1 with captain James Tedesco on Origin duty for NSW, made amends soon after when he scored a try of his own at the opposite end.
However, another error by the Kiwi international gifted Lewis his second try five minutes before halftime after he fielded a grubber from the Bulldogs five-eighth and lost the ball as namesake Falakiko Manu drove him back into the Roosters in-goal.
Trailing 16-10 at half-time, Canterbury drew level at 16-16 eight minutes after the re-start when Melbourne-bound fullback Nick Meaney sliced through the Roosters defence to score.
A long pass from Walker put winger Ikavalu over for what proved to be the decisive try in the 52nd minute. A penalty goal five minutes from fulltime after a high tackle by Jack Hetherington sealed the Roosters win.