Almost left out of the side if not for a late turn of fate, Matt Ikuvalu has become the first Rooster to score five tries in a match since 1955 after receiving a late call-up to replace injured winger Brett Morris.
Morris was a late withdrawal after suffering a groin injury in the pre-game warm-up, prompting coach Trent Robinson to hand Ikuvalu his first top-flight game since round two, and the 26-year-old didn’t disappoint.
Grabbing his last-minute call-up by the scruff of the neck, Ikuvalu crossed over the line for five tries at Country Bank Stadium to leave the North Queensland Cowboys shellshocked in 42-16 point shellacking on Thursday night.
Coming into the match, Ikuvalu had a total of four tries to his name across his 15 NRL appearances, he emphatically upped his stock in Townsville.
Having worked for four years in a factory with his farther while awaiting his NRL breakthrough, Ikuvalu’s hat-trick had the rugby league community falling love with the fairytale on show on Thursday night.
An aggressive four tries in 10 minutes after returning from half-time proved the turning point after the Cowboys managed to get the better of the Roosters for much of the first half.
But it was Ikuvalu’s 42nd minute try that had the NRL community in awe as the winger contorted his body in the air with his legs well out of play for an aerial stunner.
“That is sensational!” said Andrew Johns in commentary.
“Look how high his legs are. He literally jumped right up to get his legs high in the air there. That is incredible…like Bruce Lee.”
Minutes later, Luke Keary would cross over for a double of his own, as victory ran away from the Cowboys.
“Every time I warm up I know I have to be 100 per cent ready in case something happens,” Ikuvalu said on Nine.
“It’s always a blessing to get a game with these boys. It’s still surreal to play with such a great team. That’s 16 games, I’m 26, I’m happy with that.”