The Sydney Roosters have a golden chance to be the first back-to-back premiers since ’92-93 while the Raiders are in the grand final for the first time since ’94.
The match got off to a frenetic start with the Roosters able to gain the ascendancy due to a fortunate deflection off a Roosters trainer. They came close through Cordner, with the captain being held up but were able to earn a repeat set from a neat Cooper Cronk kick. Victor Radley earned a quick play-the-ball and youngster Sam Verrills took advantage of the slow marker work and spun his way over for the first try. The Raiders were able to withstand another Roosters surge and received their first penalty to earn their first attacking opportunity. They kicked on the fourth play and – after a quick interchange of passes – Jack Wighton was tackled inches from the line. Elliott Wighthead was held up on the final play as he tried to crash over from dummy half. The Raiders gained valuable possession but found it difficult to build momentum around the ruck and their attack suffered for it. The Raiders gave away a penalty for a high tackle and Latrell Mitchell added a further two points to the score. The match turned into a grind afterwards and very slowly, the Raiders started building momentum. They got a repeat set off a Tedesco error and a strong run from Wighton – where he ran around Boyd Cordner – led to the Raiders first try for the night. It wasn’t long for the Roosters to be back on the attack and only some desperate scrambling defence and a Manu error stopped them from adding to their lead. The half ended with an escort penalty for the Roosters but the missed attempt meant that they didn’t add to their 8-6 lead heading into the break.
The Raiders increased their intensity after the break and began an offload assault. Their second phase play had the Roosters going backwards and gaps emerged in the defence that the Raiders were beginning to exploit. A second penalty almost led to points for Josh Papalii – if not for a tackle from Cooper Cronk before the barnstorming front rower caught the ball. From that penalty Cooper Cronk was sinbinned and the Raiders elected to take the two. The Raiders continued to throw the ball around during this period and – after a Roosters error – should have crossed for a try to Jordan Rapana seconds before Cooper Cronk returned to the field. The Roosters were desperate in defence and – after countless of sets where they struggled out of their own end – played their way down the field. They received a penalty for a high tackle but once again, Mitchell was unsuccessful with his attempt. The Raiders were on the end of a strange call from the refs, after a restart to the tackle count was overruled immediately, lead to a change over. From the ensuing set, Luke Keary darted out of dummy half, Latrell Mitchell flicked for Topou and the winger passed back on the inside for James Tedesco to cross for the go ahead try. The try was a brilliant passage of play – by key members of the Roosters attack – but the move was overshadowed by the call in the set before. The conversion put the Roosters ahead by 6 with six-minutes left to play and the best efforts from the Raiders weren’t good enough to make up the difference. The Sydney Roosters crowned premiers, defending their way to a 14-8 victory and back-to-back titles.
Canberra Raiders performance over the entire match was reflected in Jack Wighton receiving the Clive Churchill Medal. His performance included 10 runs for 97 metres, with 1 line break and the Raiders sole try for the night. His eight tackle breaks were off the back of his own defensive effort, making 17 tackles while only missing 3. In years gone past, there have been some dubious selections from the losing side, but it will be hard to disagree that the Raiders five-eighth wasn’t one of the best on field.
COOPER CRONK’S FAIRYTALE FINISH
Cooper Cronk finishes his 16-year career in a way not many professional Rugby League players get the opportunity to. The champion halfback went out a premiership winner, adding to the 3 other premierships he has been apart of. Cronk has played in the last four grand finals and becomes the first halfback since Peter Sterling to win three premierships in a row. Along the way he has made 9 grand finals, won 2 Dally M Medals, and a Clive Churchill Medal for his efforts in the 2012 grand final. Congratulations Cooper on an impressive career.
RAIDERS BEST ON FIELD
Plenty of talk in the build up to this encounter surrounded the Raiders and the need to put out their best. They started off shaky but only allowed the Roosters to cross for one try and a penalty goal. The Raiders ended the half the stronger of the two sides and off the back of Jack Wighton cut the Roosters lead to two by halftime. They came out with an aggressive mindset in the second half and their positive play almost resulted in more points but were only able to get a penalty goal out of this period. The Raiders will be disappointed with the result but need to take courage in the fact that they have a squad that can win a premiership.
ROOSTER GO BACK-TO-BACK
The Roosters were able to achieve a feat that many have failed at before. They have backed up their premiers status with another grand final victory becoming the first team since the ’92-93 Broncos to back up their success. There were many contentious calls that will be dissected for years to come. None more crucial than the fake six to go call in the set before the Roosters match sealing try. But the Roosters still deserve the credit for holding up in defence – despite the constant attacks from the Raiders. The Roosters performance was resilient and despite not being at their best – and losing players to injury and the sin bin – they will be thankful for their good start to the match. They will enjoy their victory and come back next year looking to be the first team since Parramatta Eels in the early eighties to win three consecutive premierships.
JAMES TEDESCO’S STELLAR YEAR
James Tedesco finished off the year in grand style – providing another match winning moment. It was his try in the final seconds that helped NSW to their State of Origin victory and on the biggest night in the NRL, it was James Tedesco who crossed for the match winning try for the Roosters. Off the back of being awarded the Dally M Medal for the best in the season, Tedesco was contained for much of the night but there is no questioning his position as one of the best supporting fullbacks in the game.
Sydney Roosters 14
Tries: Sam Verrills, James Tedesco
Goals: Latrell Mitchell 3/5
Canberra Raiders 8
Tries: Jack Wighton
Goals: Jarrod Croker 2/2
Sydney Roosters: 1. James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Brett Morris, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Isaac Liu, 9. Sam Verrills, 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 11. Boyd Cordner (c), 12. Mitchell Aubusson, 13. Victor Radley, 14. Angus Crichton, 16. Nat Butcher, 17. Siosiua Taukeiaho, 20. Jake Friend (c)
Canberra Raiders: 1.Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (c), 10. Iosia Soliola, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joseph Tapine, 14. Bailey Simonsson, 15. Emre Guler, 16. Corey Horsburgh, 17. Dunamis Lui,