Cronk's absence felt as NRL premiers Roosters thrashed by in-form Knights

Sydney Roosters passed up the chance to move top of the NRL table after succumbing to a heavy 38-12 defeat at Newcastle Knights. 

Without star halfback Cooper Cronk - who was rested after announcing his pending retirement on Monday - the Roosters were unable to come up with the answers to some rampant attacking from the hosts, with Kalyn Ponga in fine form.

While keeping composed with his kicking, Ponga put in a superb display at full-back, scoring a brilliant try to restore a healthy lead for the Knights after James Tedesco had hit back to bring the Roosters within four.

Mitchell Pearce improved matters on the stroke of half-time, and the Knights did not look back, Connor Watson and Edrick Lee adding further gloss to a fifth successive win that moves them up to fourth, four points behind the Roosters.

Elsewhere, Dale Copley's hat-trick inspired Gold Coast Titans to a 36-18 away victory over Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.

The Titans fell behind early on in Friday's encounter, but Copley took matters into his own hands with an inspired display. 

With Jorge Taufua and a length-of-the-field try from Reuben Garrick having put the Sea Eagles in control by the 20th minute, Copley reduced the deficit, with Alexander Brimson adding another before half-time.

Tyrone Roberts got in on the act seven minutes into the second half, before Copley dived over twice in the space of five minutes.

And, though the Sea Eagles responded through Brad Parker, Bryce Cartwright and then a second from Roberts, made sure of a win that moves the Titans off the foot of the NRL.

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