A promising first attacking set from the Roosters set the tone for what would be a sublime eighty minutes for the boys from Bondi. A penalty to the Roosters in the 3rd minute, courtesy of the Storm’s ill-discipline in the ruck, gave goal kicker Latrell Mitchell a great opportunity to put his team out to a 2-0 lead and secure the first points of the grand final. In what was a sensational start to the first half, the Roosters managed to muster their first try just four minutes later, when a sensational floating cut-out pass from five-eighth Luke Keary sent winger Daniel Tupou into space and over in the left corner. The Roosters’ prominent defensive display saw them continue their dominance in a similar fashion. In a sweeping shift to the left, a great pass from Luke Keary gave Latrell Mitchell the opportunity score the Roosters’ second try, stepping his way past Storm centre Will Chambers and beating the tackle of Billy Slater. The sinbinning of Storm five eighth Cameron Munster (professional foul) in the 30th minute gave the Roosters the opportunity to extend their lead to 14 points. A multitude of handling errors from the Storm in the following 10-minute period gave the Roosters valuable field position and set the foundation for their next try. An inch-perfect short ball from fullback James Tedesco to centre Joseph Manu was enough to split the Storm’s left edge defence, and ensure the Roosters went into half-time leading 18-0.
After a brilliantly executed first half, it appeared that the Roosters emerged with more intent and a greater will to secure victory in the last game of 2018. With the Storm unable to capitalise on their attacking field position early in the second half, it appeared that time would deny the boys from Melbourne any hope of a come-from-behind victory. However, a spectacular 85 metre intercept from Storm speedster Josh Addo Carr (62nd minute) reduced the deficit to two converted tries and gave Craig Bellamy’s men a glimmer of hope. Whilst the boys from Melbourne did their best to work their way back into the contest, a mid-range field goal from Luke Keary put the Roosters out to an unassailable lead with 12 minutes remaining. A brain explosion from Storm’s Cameron Munster in the 78th minute (kicking Joseph Manu in the head) saw him become the first player ever to be sin-binned twice in a grand final. Latrell Mitchell’s resultant penalty goal extended the score line to 21-6, and secured a Roosters victory. In what was a fierce, fitting end to the season, the Sydney Roosters’ near perfect 80 minutes ensured that they secured the 2018 Telstra NRL Premiership in spectacular fashion.
Cronk Crafts Roosters Victory
In a famous moment of rugby league folklore, Cooper Cronk has become the first player in the history of the NRL to win back-to-back premierships with rival clubs – albeit with a broken scapula. Despite being clearly inhibited by his limp left arm, it was his leadership and organisation that orchestrated the Roosters’ victory. Although Cronk was not directly involved in the majority of the Roosters’ attacking or defensive play, his ability to read the game was pivotal in terms of their structure. In one of the bravest performances the NRL has ever seen, the halfback retreated from the field with nothing left to give but a premiership to the club that sacrificed everything to get him.
Roosters Entitled to Crow
Leaving their best until last certainly rang true for the Sydney Roosters on this occasion. Whilst their defensive display against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the preliminary final was second to none, their willingness to put their bodies on the line, time and time again, made it impossible for the Storm to disorientate their defensive line. Their brutal 302 tackle effort essentially frustrated the Storm into making 15 uncharacteristic handling errors, which ultimately cemented their demise. In what was a great contest, the Roosters backed up their terrific defensive performance with the utmost slickness in attack – and epitomised why they secured the minor premiership at the end of the regular season.
Top Honour for Keary
Securing the coveted Clive Churchill Medal was merely the icing on the cake for Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary. With Cooper Cronk a virtual passenger for the entirety of the match, Keary assumed the playmaker’s role and guided his team to victory with his adept passing and kicking game. Taking it upon himself to play both sides of the field was a masterstroke in the context of the game. Having an involvement in each of the Roosters’ three tries, kicking a clutch field goal in the dying stages and making 16 important tackles are telling statistics that highlight why he was named the player of the grand final.
Disappointing End for Storm
When considering the dominance that the boys from Melbourne exhibited for the majority of the 2018 season, this loss is a disappointing end to another great season. Their inability to immerse themselves in the match was evident right from the kick off, with multiple uncharacteristic errors and poor defensive reads. Whilst it may not be the way that the Storm anticipated to honour retiring champions Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman, their masterful careers are still cause for celebration. What Hoffman and Slater have achieved in their respective 16-year careers has been nothing short of remarkable, leaving legacies that will live long into the future.
Sydney Roosters 21
Tries: Daniel Tupou, Latrell Mitchell, Joseph Manu
Goals: Latrell Mitchell 4
Drop Goals: Luke Keary
Melbourne Storm 6
Tries: Josh Addo-Carr
Goals: Cameron Smith
Sydney Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Luke Keary, 23 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend, 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11 Boyd Cordner, 7 Mitchell Aubusson, 13 Victor Radley. Interchange: 12 Isaac Liu, 14 Dylan Napa, 15 Zane Tetevano, 17 Ryan Matterson.
Melbourne Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Tim Glasby, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Joe Stimson, 13 Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14 Kenneath Bromwich, 15 Christian Welch, 16 Brandon Smith, 17 Nelson Asofa-Solomona.