Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco have delivered masterclasses as the Sydney Roosters flexed their muscles in a dominant 34-12 NRL defeat of St George Illawarra.
With the finals less than three weeks away, the Roosters ran riot in the six-tries-to-two victory at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium to extend their winning streak to six and reinforce their status as premiership favourites.
Even without co-captains Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner and strike weapon Latrell Mitchell - a late withdrawal on Saturday because of a calf complaint - they were several classes above the Dragons.
The Dragons did win the second-half 12-6 but highlights were few and far between for a side now languishing in 15th spot.
One positive was provided by Tristan Sailor - the 21-year-old son of Dragons and Brisbane great Wendell.
He showed plenty of promise in his debut at fullback, running a beautiful line to get his maiden first-grade try.
But after opening up a 34-0 lead at the 52-minute mark, the Roosters could be accused of having put the cue in the rack.
The game at times looked like a glorified training run for the reigning premiers, who had delivered the killer blow by halftime when they led 28-0.
Over the last six weeks the Roosters have outscored their opponents 224-64 - albeit they have only faced one top-eight team in Canberra during that time frame.
While they require Melbourne to drop two of the final three games to finish in top spot, they have firmly established themselves as the team to beat in 2019.
Cronk finished with three try assists as well as booting his first goal since 2008 after sharing kicking duties with Siosiua Taukeiaho because of Mitchell's absence.
Tedesco was equally devastating, conjuring up with two try assists, two linebreaks, three linebreak assists, a try and 194 run metres.
Everything Trent Robinson's side did in the first-half oozed class - when Luke Keary punched through the line and Tedesco sent 19-year-old debutant Billy Smith over for his first try, they were up 18-0 and scoring at a better than a point-a-minute.
To finish off the half Cronk's landed an inch-perfect crossfield kick on the chest of an unmarked Daniel Tupou.
The veteran playmaker then ensured the Roosters extended their lead nine minutes after the resumption when he went to the line and popped a ball for Tedesco extinguish any prospect of a comeback.
Tedesco's try put the exclamation point on an emphatic performance despite the Roosters not adding to their score in the final 28 minutes.
While pleased with their first-half effort, Robinson was not as impressed after his dressing room pep talk.
"There's 14 minutes break there and we thought there was no break, we thought we could roll back into it," he said.
"It was really disappointing for us to set up a game and be as applied to our task as we were in the first half (and then drop intensity)," he said.
Dragons counterpart Paul McGregor lamented his players lack of application in defence.
"You've got to have a bit more want," he said.
"We weren't adjusting and travelling in numbers to get forward hard. The first 40 minutes was nowhere near a standard we could accept."
Australian Associated Press