ROOSTERS coach Brian Smith used every player in his NRL squad to win their final trial against the Wests Tigers last night - but it was one man on the opposition side who still managed to steal the limelight.
The Roosters won 28-24 at Campbelltown Stadium, but Benji Marshall again proved why he is one of the most dangerous players in rugby league by setting up three tries and forever worrying his rivals with his lethal boot.
The exciting playmaker had the 7,426 Tigers faithful dreaming of October on a balmy night in February.
Yet in the end it was Smith and the Roosters who had the last laugh, fighting back to down a full-strength Tigers team, including James Tedesco who all but secured the No. 1 jumper.
On a brighter note for both teams, no players picked up injuries, even though Daniel Mortimer send a brief scare through the Roosters camp when he went down after an attempted tackle on Tedesco and signalled to the sidelines. He was quickly cleared and returned to the paddock.
Marshall put up a spiralling bomb inside the opening minute, only to watch it come down into the hands of Tedesco for a simple four-pointer.
The Roosters, who started with just four recognisable NRL players, enjoyed a couple of repeat sets on the back of some penalties and hit back through Jack Bosden.
But Marshall wasted no time keeping the scoreboard ticking over, helping the Tigers march upfield and then throwing a long cut-out pass for winger Beau Ryan to crash over. He produced another rifle-like cut-out pass to put Ryan over for his second and make it 18-6.
The Kiwi whiz’s kicking game was electric as two of his grubbers forced dropouts, and his soaring bombs - no other player in the NRL can send them higher - forever worried the Roosters backs.
The Campbelltown faithful lapped up the Marshall one-man show, but let Roosters coach Brian Smith know their feelings when he made 12 changes for the second quarter, with the mass exodus looking more like a scene from NFL rather than NRL.
For all Marshall’s attacking flair, the Tigers produced some sluggish defence just before the main break to allow the Chooks to hit back with two tries and make it 18-16.
First a Chris Lawrence handling error was punished by Boyd Cordner, then Roosters No. 7 Mitchell Pearce showed his class to slice through a couple of Tigers players and crash over.
Marshall continued to cause trouble, throwing another lengthy pass to Blake Ayshford who put Ryan over for his third try.
Despite the Tigers dominating field position, it was the Roosters who again hit back, giant prop Mose Masoe barging over under the posts just after the hour to make it 24-22. Two minutes later Daniel Mortimer crossed out wide to put the Chooks ahead for the first time in the match.