Triumphant return for Pearce, Cowboys hold off Manly


Mitchell Pearce made a winning return to the NRL and staked a claim to a State of Origin berth as Sydney Roosters thrashed Newcastle Knights 38-0 on Saturday.

Pearce, back in action after serving an eight-match ban for alcohol-fuelled disciplinary problems, scored one try and was involved in three others, as Mitchell Aubusson and Isaac Liu crossed twice and Blake Ferguson claimed a hat-trick in the mauling at Allianz Stadium, where the boot of Jackson Hastings contributed 14 points.

Prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves also made his first appearance of the season for the Roosters after recovering from a knee injury, but it was half-back Pearce who dominated the spotlight as he bids to impress New South Wales coach Laurie Daley ahead of the State of Origin opener on June 1.

"To be honest, it has been one of the best things that has happened to me," Pearce told Fox Sports.

"It sounds kind of weird saying that, but I've been through a lot and come out the other side.

"Just to get back and play well tonight, play well as a team, it's been good."

The Roosters' second win of the season lifted them off bottom spot at the expense of Newcastle, as North Queensland Cowboys moved into first place courtesy of a 43-18 win away to Manly Sea Eagles.

Kyle Feldt nabbed a brace, while Antonio Winterstein, Gavin Cooper and Kane Linnett all crossed before the reigning premiers survived a late rally, Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans and Pita Godinet snatching converted tries during a nervy final six minutes for the visitors.

There was a thrilling finish to the other match on Saturday, as a Peter Wallace field goal in the last minute of the game saw Penrith Panthers edge Canberra Raiders 19-18.