The Sydney Roosters have edged themselves closer to securing a spot in the 2018 NRL Grand Final, defeating a valiant Cronulla Sharks side 21-12 at Allianz Stadium.
Right from the kick-off, it appeared that both the Roosters and the Sharks were prepared for a fierce, defence-oriented battle. This mindset was exemplified by both teams in the opening exchanges, with both the Sharks and Roosters’ backlines being powerfully driven into the turf by their opposition forwards. It only took six minutes for the Sharks to stamp their authority and score their first try. A great left-hand shift and sleight of hand from backrower Wade Graham sent winger Sosaia Feki over untouched. Three successive penalties in the following 10-minute period gave the Roosters the opportunity to mount pressure and gain valuable field position. It was halfback Cooper Cronk who scored the Roosters’ first points, after he spectacularly grounded his own grubber kick after it ricocheted off Graham. It wasn’t until the 38th minute that the next set of points came, in the form of another Roosters try. Off the back of a penalty, a great backline movement saw James Tedesco draw two Sharks defenders and create the space for centre Joseph Manu to score on the right edge. It was this late try that sent the Roosters into half-time with a 10-6 lead.
After a tough, grinding first half, it appeared that the boys from Cronulla emerged with more determination in both their defence and attack. Similar to the first half, the Sharks managed to score after just five minutes, courtesy of a great switch from the open side to the short side from halfback Chad Townsend. After disorienting the Roosters’ defensive line, Townsend successfully kicked for winger Edrick Lee, who grounded the ball in spectacular fashion before being rammed over the touch line. However, whilst the Sharks exhibited great resilience in defence in the opening stages of the second half, the Roosters managed to work their way back into the game. A pinpoint cross field kick from Cronk and a spectacular gather from centre Latrell Mitchell set up the Roosters’ next try. Their dominance continued just five minutes later, when a terrific cut out ball from Tedesco split the Sharks’ right edge and gave winger Daniel Tupou the opportunity to extend their lead to a converted try. The late attacking pressure from the Sharks proved to be no obstacle for Cronk, who booted a 30-metre field goal to put the Roosters in front by seven points with just six minutes remaining. A late penalty goal to the Roosters put them out to an unassailable lead, and ensured their 21-12 victory.
Battle of the Forwards
In what was a typical finals clash, both the Roosters and the Sharks forward packs were instrumental in their respective teams’ go forward. Despite eventually succumbing to the relentless pressure of the Roosters, Sharks Luke Lewis and Andrew Fifita were tremendous in defeat, running for 279 metres between them. Roosters Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Boyd Cordner and Zane Tetevano were also instrumental for their side, contributing a total of 476 running metres. It was this willingness and intent to charge down the middle of the field that ensured a fierce, highly contested battle.
Missed Opportunities Cost Sharks
It was certainly a missed opportunity for the Sharks, who let numerous scoring opportunities go begging. Whilst Shane Flanagan’s men held the advantage and were dominant for the large majority of the match, they were unable to close the game out. The two wayward passes and a lost ball on the try line ultimately cemented their demise. Had the Sharks managed to capitalise on these attacking opportunities, they would have secured their spot in the week three qualifying final.
All Class From Cronk
Experienced campaigner Cooper Cronk was instrumental in this finals clash against the Sharks, scoring a crucial try, having a hand in another and slotting a field goal in the dying minutes. The leadership and control that Cronk brought to the Roosters’ attack ensured that they remained focused for the entire 80 minutes. Cronk’s poise and stability are imperative if the Roosters are to secure the 2018 Telstra NRL Premiership.
Grand Final Qualifier Awaits Roosters
Victory in this finals clash has edged the Roosters closer to securing their spot in the 2018 NRL Grand Final. With only one win standing between them and the big dance, the Roosters will be determined to come out firing in week three against the winner of the week two playoff between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and either the Brisbane Broncos or the St. George Illawarra Dragons*.
*Pending Result of Week One Elimination Final.
Sydney Roosters 21
Tries: Cooper Cronk, Joseph Manu, Latrell Mitchell, Daniel Tupou
Goals: Latrell Mitchell 2
Drop Goals: Cooper Cronk 1
Cronulla Sharks 12
Tries: Sosaia Feki, Edrick Lee
Goals: Valentine Holmes 2
Sydney Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Luke Keary, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend, 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11 Boyd Cordner, 16 Mitchell Aubusson, 12 Isaac Liu. Interchange: 13 Victor Radley, 14 Lindsay Collins, 15 Zane Tetevano, 17 Ryan Matterson.
Cronulla Sharks: 1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Edrick Lee, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Paul Gallen. Interchange: 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Aaron Woods, 17 Jayson Bukuya, 18 Scott Sorenson.