Yet again Australia’s elite are celebrating a victory against their English counterparts in the World Club Series, and although this emphatic victory for the Roosters makes it 1-0 in the three-game series, the cumulative score in the two years of this embryonic competition is now 4-0.
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Nikorima turned down a contract offer from the Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett to join the Roosters at the beginning of this year in search of regular first-team action, also walking away from the chance to pair up with older brother and New Zealand international Kodi at the Broncos in the coming years. The Nikorima brothers seemingly like England; Kodi played a starring role on his international debut during the Kiwis’ victory against Steve McNamara’s side in London late last year – and Jayden’s debut was even better.
After being beaten 39-0 in last year’s World Club Challenge by the Roosters’ city rivals South Sydney Rabbitohs, this was another grim and painful reminder for the Saints of how significant the jump up in class is in the NRL. Their forwards competed gamely throughout, but as in so many England v Australia games at international level down the years, the difference came in the skill levels and execution of the Australian side’s backs division.
“I thought our middles were outstanding but the difference came in their outside-backs, ” said the St Helens coach, Keiron Cunningham. “They got a lot of tries against the run of play but they’re a great side who can do some special things. If that’s his [Nikorima’s] debut, then he’s going to be outstanding.”
Nikorima was withdrawn after three minutes because of a head knock but he returned to the field to find his side 6-0 up and with a lead they would never surrender. That try came courtesy of the forward Kane Evans after St Helens had forgotten the free play rule in the World Club Series did not exist, with Luke Walsh wasting a chance for the Saints to strike after Evans had earlier spilled the ball.
From thereon the first half was one-way traffic, and with Nikorima at the heart of Sydney’s play, they surged into a thoroughly merited 22-0 half-time lead. Tries from Aiden Guerra, Blake Ferguson and the pick of the bunch from Dale Copley – from a scintillating break and subsequent pass from none other than Nikorima – made it game over by half-time.
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To their credit, St Helens fought back well in the second half but the damage had long since been done. They at least avoided the ignominy of being whitewashed by NRL opposition for a second straight year courtesy of two well-taken tries from the centre Dominique Peyroux.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Daniel Tupou and the try of the match from Guerra’s second – a slick handling move that left the hosts with no answer, a familiar theme throughout the game – only further added to the procession. It illustrated the gulf in class between the sides – and probably the two competitions.
St Helens Owens; Makinson, Peyroux, Turner, Swift; Wilkin, Walsh; Walmsley, Burns, Savelio, Greenwood, Vea, McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Interchange Amor, Tasi, Thompson, Knowles.
Tries Peyroux 2. Goals Walsh 2.
Sydney Ferguson; Tupou, Copley, Mitchell, Kenny-Dowall; Nikorima, Hastings; Evans, Friend, Napa, Guerra, Aubusson, Taukeiaho. Interchange Moa, Liu, Leuluai, Henderson.