Sonny Bill Williams made his NRL return but James Tedesco was the star as the Sydney Roosters marched towards the top four by beating Canberra 18-6 on Saturday night. In the most hyped NRL return in years, Williams played 14 minutes after being booed onto the field by Raiders fans when he entered the field in the second half.

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He was hit hard by Dunamis Lui on his first touch, but still managed to get an offload away for Luke Keary and he finished with four touches in the middle. “The bus ride for the old 35-year-old wasn’t too good. But I loved being back in the game I grew up playing,” said Williams afterwards.

“It was fast, I expected that. I’ve never played in the middle in my whole career. It’s just special to be back playing with the lads.”

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The dual-international left the field with eight minutes to play, with some miles in the legs in his first game since last turning out for Toronto Wolfpack in March. While Williams was the focus in his first NRL game in six years, Tedesco was again the standout.

“He’s a marvel,” added Williams. “There has been a lot of talk about me coming back in but for me, it’s about learning how I can play along side Teddy and run off him and feed off him. They are special individuals.”

The Roosters No1 bagged his first double in almost three months, doing it himself both times in the crucial win. His second try was the most important of the match, taking the Roosters’ lead to 12 midway through the second half and giving them complete control.

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On the back of some quick hands from Kyle Flanagan, Tedesco jinked and grubbered – taking a fortunate deflection – before collecting the ball himself and skipping over for his seventh try of the season.

On a positive night for the two-time defending premiers, Keary and Angus Crichton got through their returns from injury unscathed while Jake Friend sat out the match through concussion. The win momentarily moves the Roosters to third and, given their superior for-and-against, wins in two of their remaining three games would wrap up a top-four spot.

Canberra, meanwhile, were left to rue their missed opportunities, scoring just one try despite 38 play-the-balls inside the Roosters’ 20-metre. Their path to a second successive decider is now far harder.

They will finish the round in fifth, and staring down the barrel of needing to play 22 weeks straight if they want to reach the grand final and lift the premiership. Their biggest weapon Josh Papalii finished the game with an injured shoulder, not returning in the second half.

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Tedesco laid the first blow for the Roosters just a week after having a hand in five tries against Brisbane. After an error-riddled start to the game by the Raiders, Tedesco dummied and went himself to force his way through the line in the sixth minute.

The champion full-back finished the game with 198 metres and a ridiculous 13 tackle busts. The Raiders’ lone try came courtesy of some smart play by John Bateman.

After Jordan Rapana leapt high to bat-back a George Williams kick, Bateman grubbered for himself to score and make it 6-6. But the Roosters regained the lead, when Flanagan put on a pin-point perfect cross-field kick for a jumping Daniel Tupou to score, and they never let it go.

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