JWH's headbutt and Manu injury give Roosters nervy wait

Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS

The Sydney Roosters face a nervous wait ahead of their must-win regular-season finale after a high shot and headbutt from Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and a hamstring injury to Joey Manu in the 32-8 defeat of Wests Tigers.

But Roosters coach Trent Robinson downplayed Waerea-Haregreaves' back-to-back brain snaps, claiming his star prop forward receives more scrutiny than other NRL players.

The Tricolours celebrated Sam Walker's long-awaited return from injury with a victory at Allianz Stadium on Saturday that sets the stage for a shootout against rivals South Sydney in round 27.

Only the winner is likely to progress to the finals but veteran Waerea-Hagreaves and utility Manu could both miss the crucial game.

Waerea-Hargreaves went to the sin bin for a late, high hit on Tigers captain Api Koroisau as he kicked the ball with 16 minutes to play.

When a fracas broke out, Waerea-Hargreaves appeared to headbutt rival prop Stefano Utoikamanu.

Tigers coach Benji Marshall believed Waerea-Hargreaves could have been dismissed from the field altogether.

"I thought he crossed the line tonight, especially with the hit. But he got what he deserved, ten minutes," Marshall said.

"The ref saw enough in it to be a sin bin, potentially probably a send-off."

Roosters forward Victor Radley missed three weeks for a similar headbutt earlier in the year so the shot could have implications for the side should they progress to the finals.

"I didn't see much to it (the headbutt), to be honest," Robinson said.

"He's always going to get scrutinised. That's really common.

"You want him to be on the edge and you want him to be in more control. That (the tackle) was a silly challenge. But people make more of it. It's constant.

"If he or 'Rads' does some of the late challenges that we saw play on and then get put on report later, usually more happens to them than other people."

Manu hurt his hamstring tapping a kick dead midway through the first half and played no further part in the game.

"It's mild but he still had to leave the field, which is never a good sign," Robinson said.

In better news, James Tedesco is on track to return from concussion against the Rabbitohs, while Billy Smith and Radley both passed their head injury assessments late in the Tigers game.

The loss moves the Tigers closer to their second consecutive wooden spoon.

To avoid the dubious honour from here, Wests would need to convincingly beat Manly next week and hope St George Illawarra lose big to Newcastle.

Walker was important early in his first NRL game since recovering from the knee injury suffered just after he was dropped in mid-April.

The halfback dummied left and skipped inside before bouncing free of Koroisau and Fonua Pole for the Roosters' first try.

He had fewer chances to make his mark in the second half after collecting Isaiah Papali'i's knee to his head and leaving the field for a head injury assessment, which he passed.

Only a Daniel Tupou try scored in the final 90 seconds of the half separated the sides at the break.

But after it, Terrell May and Suaalii ran through some poor goal-line defence for tries that had the Roosters closing in on their fifth win from six games.