THE overall record of expanded World Club Championship matches was left at 60-8 in favour of the southern hemisphere by this 2016 opening night mismatch – but Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson launched an impassioned defence of the concept.
The St Helens-Roosters clash at Langtree Park marked the 40th anniversary of the firsrt clash between the Australian and British champions – involving the same clubs at the Sydney Sports Ground in ’76 – and by halftime the NRL team had racked up a 22-0 lead.
World Club Challenge games were adjudged to have such potential that in 1997 the Super League competitions merged mid-season but those from the Australasia won 48 of the 56 matches played. Since the revival of the idea last year, NRL sides have been successful in all four games.
“I don’t think questioning it is a good idea. It’s about loving it and investing some time,” said Robinson following a match in which the performances of young halves Jayden Nikorima and Jackson Hastings was a feature.
“It’s awesome to go to St Helens and Wigan and Leeds.
“It’s here to stay. We want to promote the players between England and Australia. There’s some great English players down in the NRL as well.
“We have to continue the concept. The fans love it, They’re turning up.”
But after some determined defence from St Helens the Roosters hit cruise mode, making light of the absence of Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Boyd Cordner and the departed Michael Jennings, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney.
Boom centre Latrell Mitchell beat four players on a dime in the lead-up to the opening touchdown of the game, for prop Kane Evans, while Nikorima overcame an early head knock to star.
St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham described both Nikorima and Mitchell as future superstars.
“There’s been a lot written in the last month but we’ve always been confident about what’s ahead,” said Robinson.
“I thought we came up with stuff that usually takes a few months.”
One selection surprise was the omission of Wigan recruit Joe Burgess from the Roosters squad. “He’s a very good player who will play a lot of NRL,” said Robinson.
“But he’s only been with us five or six months. He’s probably a little bit short but Latrell developed well over the off-season.”
Cunningham said: “The difference was the outside backs of the Roosters … it’s unfortunate the scoreline blew out the way it did.”
Nikorima was not made available to the media after the match.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 38 (A Guerra 2 K Evans D Copley D Tupou S Kenny-Dowall B Ferguson tries J Hastings 5 goals) beat ST HELENS 12 (D Peyroux 2 tries L Walsh 2 goals) at Langtree Park. Referee: Ben Thaler. Crowd: 14,008