A tough, defence-oriented performance from the Sydney Roosters saw them overshadow the South Sydney Rabbitohs 12-4 and secure their spot in the 2018 NRL Grand Final.
The error-riddled opening 10 minutes set the tone for what would be a scrappy affair, from both the Roosters and the Rabbitohs, in the last NRL game ever to be played at Allianz Stadium. A penalty to the Rabbitohs in the 13th minute gave goal kicker Adam Reynolds a great opportunity to put his team out to a 2-0 lead and secure the first points of the preliminary final. However, it was the Roosters who managed to muster the first try just two minutes later, courtesy of a sublime sleight of hand from fullback James Tedesco. It was this great left-hand shift that saw Tedesco split the Rabbitohs’ right edge and create the space for winger Daniel Tupou to score in the corner. Poor discipline from the Roosters gifted the Rabbitohs back-to-back penalties and saw Reynolds level the score after 25 minutes. The Roosters’ relentless defence for the remainder of the first half restricted any chances that the Rabbitohs had of scoring their first try, and ensured that the score remained at 4-4 going into half-time.
Whilst the Rabbitohs exhibited glimpses of brilliance in the first half, the Roosters emerged from the break with more intent in both attack and defence. Off the back of a penalty and two great attacking sets, a great run from centre Joseph Manu in the 48th minute set up the Roosters’ second try. After attracting three Rabbitohs’ defenders, Manu managed to deliver an offload to winger Blake Ferguson, who utilised his strength to beat Rabbitohs John Sutton and Alex Johnston to the try line and extend the score to 8-4. A multitude of handling errors from the Roosters in the following 10-minute period gave the Rabbitohs a golden opportunity to score their first try of match. However, the Roosters’ resilience in defence was exemplified when Manu barrelled Alex Johnston into touch just 20 metres out from the Rabbitohs’ goal line. It was this monster tackle that swung the momentum back in favour of the Roosters. A pinpoint cross field kick from five eighth Luke Keary and a spectacular grounding from youngster Paul Momirovski in the 70th minute extended their lead beyond a converted try. The late attacking pressure from the Rabbitohs proved to be no obstacle for the Roosters, who finished the game without conceding a try. In front of a record crowd (44,380), the Roosters prevailed in spectacular fashion (12-4) and advanced themselves through to the 2018 NRL Grand Final.
Roosters Resilient in Defence
In this preliminary final, the Roosters certainly showed why they were dubbed the best defensive team in the competition at the end of the regular season. Their willingness to put their bodies on the line, time and time again, made it impossible for the Rabbitohs to disorient their defensive line. Their mindset was exemplified in the second half, when they were required to defend their own goal line for successive sets. If the Roosters can replicate their 344 tackle effort in the grand final and utilise their defence to frustrate the Melbourne Storm into errors, they will give themselves the best opportunity to secure the 2018 Telstra NRL Premiership.
Cronk Injury Sours Roosters Victory
A tackle from Rabbitohs enforcer Sam Burgess seconds before half-time placed the halfback in a world of pain and left his left arm hanging by a thread. Whilst he managed to return for the second half and play out the remainder of the match, his range of movement was severely limited – and both his passing and kicking game were impacted as a result. A late hit from Rabbitoh Tevita Tatola late in the second half appeared to aggravate the injury, and put a cloud over his grand final appearance against his old club, the Melbourne Storm. When considering the leadership and direction that the veteran brings to the Roosters’ attack and defence, his presence will be sorely missed if he is unable to line up for the 2018 NRL Grand Final.
Rabbitohs Left to Rue Errors
The 10 incomplete sets and 14 handling errors made it very difficult for the boys from South Sydney to gain valuable field position or mount any pressure on their opponents. Whilst the Rabbitohs did exhibit aspects of the superb defence that we have seen so many times in 2018, it was their inability to find the try line and capitalise on the Roosters’ errors that ultimately cemented their demise.
Grand Final Awaits Roosters
For the first time in history, the NRL Grand Final will see the first placed Sydney Roosters take on the second placed Melbourne Storm. With both teams vying for the 2018 Telstra NRL Premiership, this match is set to be a battle of epic proportion. Given the quality and calibre of players within both teams, expect next Sunday’s clash to be a fierce, highly-contested blockbuster.
Sydney Roosters 12
Tries: Daniel Tupou, Blake Ferguson, Paul Momirovski
South Sydney Rabbitohs 4
Goals: Adam Reynolds 2
Sydney Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 20 Paul Momirovski, 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, 3 Mitchell Aubusson, 12 Isaac Liu. Interchange: 13 Victor Radley, 14 Lindsay Collins, 15 Zane Tetevano, 17 Ryan Matterson.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 3 Greg Inglis, 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Robert Jennings, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Thomas Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess. Interchange: 14 Hymel Hunt, 15 Cameron Murray, 17 Dean Britt, 20 Tevita Tatola.